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Silver ETF: investors can take decisive action NOW to get it approved

By: Hubberts Peak-aware Fundamental Analysis

-- Posted 14 February, 2006 | |

Dear gold and silver investors,

Follows a comment I have just sent to the SEC regarding the proposed Barclays' iShares Silver Trust ETF. I offer it as a model to use for anyone who agrees with the concepts therein. I know that the period for comments has probably expired. However, if the SEC is conspicuously  flooded with comments like this it is very unlikely that they will be able to ignore the addressed issues.

I felt compelled to send this comment after looking at those already sent, where no one mentioned the crucial issues in play. And I feel compelled to ask you to spread this message so that the highest possible number of people can send similar comments (if they agree of course).

Remember, the time to act is NOW.

The best to you,

   Hubbert's Peak-aware Fundamental Analysis

Comments can be sent electronically as described in page 32 of document

Electronic comments:

Use the Commission's Internet comment form (; or

Send an e-mail to

Please include File Number SR-Amex-2005-072 on the subject line.


To: US Securities and Exchange Commission

Subject: File Number SR-Amex-2005-072

Dear Sirs,

I urge you to approve the listing of Barclays' iShares Silver Trust based on important expert information already in the file as well as critical mineral reserves information from the US Geological Survey that seems not to have been considered in this process:

The expert information already in the file is a note the SEC received from CPM Group:

referred to by an internal SEC memo belonging to this process:

"regarding the effects that approval of the Barclay's Silver Shares proposal would have on the commodities pricing of silver bullion" (quoted from the memo).

The CPM note basically says there is very little silver around. Quoting from it:

"One of the misunderstandings common in the silver market is that there are hundreds of millions of ounces of silver in inventories in London and Zurich. There is not nearly that much. There may be between 75 and 100 million ounces in these bank vaults as of early 2006."

From that information, it is a straightforward logical conclusion that the ETF would have a very high impact on the silver price. That conclusion, in turn, could erroneously lead anyone WITH OBSOLETE AND DANGEROUS CORNUCOPIAN PARADIGMS to the conclusion that the ETF should not be approved.

What do I mean by "obsolete and dangerous cornucopian paradigms"? Those that ignore the concept of Hubbert's Peak, a term which - although generally used as synonymous for Peak Oil - applies also to the extraction rate of metals (and I purposely said "extraction" instead of "production" which is a misleading term, because it does not reflect the fact that taking oil or metals from the Earth is a one-off event intrinsically different than harvesting crops.)

Any metal, like oil, is a non-renewable, absolutely exhaustible resource which exists in LIMITED amounts in exploitable ores of high enough grade in the ground. And any metal, like oil, has its own bell-shaped curve of production rate over time, whose highest point is called "Hubbert's Peak" in honor of geologist M. King Hubbert who first formalized this concept in 1949. And, of all metals, SILVER HAS THE NEAREST HUBBERT'S PEAK.

I will substantiate this crucial statement with a source beyond dispute: the 2006 issue of the "mineral commodity summary" for silver prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey, which is at:

This document states that for 2005, in metric tons (mt):

- world mine production was 20,300 mt;

- world reserves stood at 270,000 mt (13.3 years of production);

- world reserve base stood at 570,000 mt (28.1 years of production);

where: reserves = that part of the demonstrated (measured plus indicated) resources that are currently economic, i.e. which can be economically extracted or produced currently; and reserve base = those demonstrated (measured plus indicated) resources that are currently economic (reserves), marginally economic (marginal reserves), and some of those that are currently subeconomic (subeconomic resources).

A quick comparison with other metals will show that silver has the lowest reserves/production and reserve base/production ratios. That comparison was done a year ago by Mr Theodore Butler using data for 2004 and can be viewed at

From that page:

Comm Production Reserves Reserve Base Reserves Reserve Base

                 (...Metric Tons...) (..Years Remaining...)

Aluminum 30 million unlimited unlimited 100+ 100+

Copper 14 million 470 million 940 million 33+ 67+

Lead 2.6 million 67 million 140 million 23 48

Nickel 1.4 million 62 million 140 million 44 100

Zinc 8.5 million 220 million 460 million 26 54

Silver 20,000 270,000 570,000 14 29

Gold 2,600 43,000 89,000 17 34

PGM 350 70,000 80,000 200 200+

Please note the difference between the 2005 and 2004 figures for silver: one year passed, one year less remaining in reserves and reserve base.

Though the cases for gold and silver do not look very different from the above table, it should be noted that a large portion of above ground silver is in non-recoverable form, spread e.g. in myriads of electronic devices. That sets it apart from gold, which is mostly in readily recyclable bullion and jewelry form.

Last but not least, silver - having the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all metals - will be a critical resource for the technological breaktroughs needed to successfully tackle the forthcoming energy crisis.

Therefore, summarizing the facts about silver:

- It is the metal in worst state of mineral depletion (from the USGS).

- Its above ground stocks are very small relative to production (from CPM).

- It is a strategically critical resource.

In view of these facts, which of the following should be the wise path?

A. Approving the ETF, thus allowing the ensuing accumulation to increase above ground stocks from the current extremely low levels, and by doing so cause the price to rise which in turn will discourage non-essential consumption and encourage exploration, or

B. Rejecting the ETF, thus preventing the market from having the price signals that "play a key role in conserving scarce resources, directing those resources to their most highly valued uses"?

If you are still in doubt about which is the wise way to go, let me quote from the remarks by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan on energy, made in Tokyo on October 17, 2005 and available at

"The experience of the past fifty years--and indeed much longer than that--affirms that market forces play a key role in conserving scarce energy resources, directing those resources to their most highly valued uses."

"Barring political impediments to the operation of markets, the same price signals that are so critical for balancing energy supply and demand in the short run also signal profit opportunities for long-term supply expansion."

In view of these remarks, and completely at odds with the opinion Mr Theodore Butler expressed (obviously not having Hubbert's Peak considerations in mind at that time) in the document added to the file at

I would say that, when I put myself in your shoes, approving a security that would impact the price of a strategic commodity in a state of critical shortage and depletion would be the SURE thing I would do.

By the way, isn't a commodity ETF conceptually similar to the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)? Isn't the SPR like a Trust whose shareholders are all US taxpayers? Wasn't this Administration's decision to fill up the SPR bitterly criticized by short-sighted politicians, on the grounds that doing that was contributing to high oil prices (which of course it was)? And didn't the oil in the SPR prove invaluable after the havoc played by hurricanes Katrina and Rita on oil production facilities?

I hope you will make a wise decision. A decision that helps keep civilization safe.

-- Posted 14 February, 2006 | |

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