Gold (GLD, DGP) and silver (SLV, AGQ) have broken out of a summer base and gold stocks are beginning to stir once again. The question now becomes who are the leaders and who are the laggards as history has shown us that that not all gold and silver stocks are created equal.
Silver Standard's (SSRI) portfolio is filled with quality projects but the challenge continues to be moving from an exploration company to a producer.
The second quarter saw production of 2 million ounces of silver putting them on track to achieve their 2012 guidance.
However, the problems in Argentina are affecting Silver Standard as well but solutions have been crafted to partially rectify the export problems although inflation will remain a concern for some time.
Personally, I am a bit worried about Silver Standard not participating in two Pretium Resources (PVG) offerings this year as it allows its position in the company to be diluted.
The biggest concern is not fast tracking the Pitarrilla buildout. Pitarrilla is a world class asset with over 700 million Measured, Indicated, and Inferred (MII) Resources of silver, 4 billion MII pounds of zinc, and 2 billion pounds of lead.
Yes, mine projects are being deferred and delayed across the industry but when the only operating mine is subject to the problems in Argentina it makes sense to fast track your mine to diversify your revenue stream and cash flows.
Inflation and increasing government controls over the economy will squeeze margins and cash flow when it will be needed to build out the mine.
Kinross Gold has been in the process of streamlining its mine portfolio and restructuring operations with the recent disposition of their 50% interest in Crixas on June 28, in a sale to AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. (AU)
The Tasiast expansion has been put on hold as well with plans now to construct a 30,000 tonne per day mid-sized CIL mill expandable up to 60,000 tonnes per day.
The slower expansion is better suited to Kinross given the cost pressures across the industry. As we have seen with Penasquito, Goldcorp's flagship mine in Mexico many problems can hamper the ramp up to full production.
On the positive side, work at Dvoinoye continues to move along with underground development slightly ahead of schedule and construction of the all-season road progressing with the installation of a bridge crossing scheduled after the winter season.
I like Kinross for reasons not recognized by many. It has the expertise to operate in difficult environments as its project portfolio has shown. From the northeastern expanses of Russia to Africa and South America, Kinross goes where not many mining companies dare to operate and it holds a portfolio of top-notch projects.
As this restructuring moves forward Kinross will begin to unlock the value within the project portfolio and the stock price will see gains. Unfortunately, this may require waiting for a quarter or two to see the results.
Goldcorp (GG) continues to be hampered with problems at Penasquito as the drought in Northern Mexico hampers the ability to obtain adequate water supplies. Drill work to tap a local aquifer has started and that work is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Argentina continues to be a thorn in the side of mining companies, hampering efforts at Cerro Negro although the biggest problem to date has been labor costs.
Problems at Red Lake have caused production estimates at Red Lake and overall to be lowered for 2012 with costs revised upward. Developmental work at Red Lake continues with new drilling under way to better understand some of the previous work to date.
Some good news has come out of Pueblo Viejo where production has started at the gold project in the Dominican Republic, where Goldcorp owns 40% of the project and Barrick Gold owns the other 60%.
Elsewhere, Goldcorp is hitting on all cylinders as exploration work at Cerro Negro and around Penasquito continues to yield success. Once the cash flow from Pueblo Viejo begins to roll in and the problems at Penasquito are ironed out shareholders will begin to reap the full benefits of Goldcorp's buildout.
Penasquito has been a thorn in Goldcorp's side since opening the mine as it has been plagued by problems like too small pebbles coming out of the crusher and a drought.
All three stocks are excellent companies in the gold and silver sectors but at this point in time they need to iron out the problems before moving to the top tier in their respective sectors.
World-class assets comprise the portfolios but prudence would say wait until both have delivered concise plans to investors about how they will proceed in this environment.
Until then investors should wait for clarity but keep an eye on dollars-per-ounce valuations. Both companies have significant reserves and while they may not lead when the reserve valuation gap versus the leaders gets to a significant discount they will roar back.