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Herd on a Manhattan block

High-profile US investment fund manager Frank Holmes heard nothing at a giant New York bitcoin, blockchain and cryptocurrency gabfest last week to deter him from bullish views about the looming impact of the financial haymakers on precious metals production, supply and even investment.
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Staff reporter

Back in Austin, Texas, on the weekend, the US Global Investors CEO wrote in his blog: "Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize how gold and precious metals are manufactured and delivered."

"Blockchain is also bringing change to gold investment. Consider Royal Mint Gold which aims to provide the ‘performance of the London Gold Market with the transparency of an exchange-traded security' … [and] the Perth Mint's InfiniGold, which issues digital certificates guaranteeing ownership of gold and silver in the mint's vault.

"A number of other platforms exist to help facilitate gold trading."

Holmes agreed with World Gold Council chief strategist, John Reade's view that if even one of the current initiatives proves popular, it "could be as big a change to the gold markets as the development of ETFs, but with the added advantage of appealing to younger generations".

Holmes joined an estimated 8,500 attendees at the three-day Consensus 2018 - packed in like sardines, apparently, at the 3,000-capacity Hilton in Manhattan - which he said "had the energy and flair of the world's greatest carnival".

"Attendance doubled from last year … [and] ticket sales alone pulled in a whopping US$17 million, while event booths - the largest of which belonged to Microsoft and IBM - generated untold millions more," Holmes reported.

"It wasn't all fun and games, and there were some serious discussions on how governments might one day use cryptocurrencies; the future of bitcoin mining; and blockchain applications in finance, health care, insurance, energy and more.

"[If you] consider the journey a gold nugget must take along its supply chain, from mine to end consumer … [cutting] through several other industries and practices, including legal, regulatory, financial, manufacturing and retail, each of which might have its own ledger system … [blockchain could] give the industry a huge shot of trust, not to mention dramatically increase efficiency."

Existing ledgers were vulnerable to hacking, fraud, errors and misinterpretations.

"They can be forged, for example, to conceal how the metal or mineral was sourced," Holmes said.

"With blockchain technology, there's no hiding anything. Decentralization guarantees complete transparency, meaning anyone along the supply chain can see how, when and where the metal was produced, and who was involved every step of the way.

"Many producers, tech firms and entire jurisdictions have already adopted, or plan to adopt, blockchain technology for these very reasons."

IAMGOLD, a Toronto-based producer, announced last month it had partnered with fintech digital gold trading firm,Tradewind Markets, while IBM helped launch the TrustChain diamond and jewellery blockchain consortium to track and authenticate diamonds, metals and jewellery from all over the world.

"Sometime this year, the Democratic Republic of Congo will begin tracking cobalt supply from mines to ensure children were not involved," Holmes said.

"With precious metals being used more widely in industrial applications, from smartphones to electric cars to Internet of Things appliances, tracking metals across the supply chain has become increasingly more important to businesses and consumers.

"According to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), global sales of semiconductors - which contain various metals, including gold - crossed above $400 billion for the first time in 2017.

"Total sales were $412.2 billion, an increase of nearly 22% from the previous year.

"That's a lot of metal and other materials that blockchain tech can help authenticate."