The Golden Portfolio

As the major indices dip back into unwelcomed weakness, investor portfolios the world over are again seeing more red ink than black. One intrepid mining company, however, continues to see nothing but gold.

Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY  ) released updated operational guidance this week, and served a timely reminder that this company's portfolio of producing gold mines could translate into a lot of black ink. Yamana expects a 40% increase in gold production in 2009 to as much as 1.4 million gold-equivalent ounces (GEOs).

Already sporting some of the lowest mining costs in the industry, Yamana sees those costs dropping further going forward. At a cash cost of $375 per ounce or less for 2009, and less than $300 per ounce once by-product credits are factored in, Yamana's projected cost structure is superior even to an efficient producer like Goldcorp (NYSE: GG  ) . In light of the persistently weak prices for by-products like copper, the boost to margins on gold is truly a welcome development for investors.

This Fool was particularly relieved to see that Yamana locked in fully one-third of the company's projected 2009 copper production at about $3 per pound ... twice the current spot price. An epic decline in copper prices is testing the mettle of leading producers like Southern Copper (NYSE: PCU  ) and Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE: FCX  ) , and pushing once-mighty miners like Teck Cominco (NYSE: TCK  ) to the brink.

Adapting to the uncertain economic environment, Yamana has deferred some longer-range development initiatives in order to focus more intently upon core projects like Gualcamayo and Jacobina. The streamlined budget calls for capital expenditures of about $350 million this year, and $400 million in 2010. With golden cash flows from its low-cost mining operations, $160 million in cash as of year-end 2008, and an untapped credit facility of $250 million, I see a gold miner ready to cash in on some serious organic growth.

I have been cautious on several precious-metal miners during the recent rally precisely because of concerns relating to weak prices for by-product metals like copper and zinc. Even my top pick for 2009, Agnico-Eagle Mines (NYSE: AEM  ) , may not be immune to near-term woes as the zinc effect hits the bottom line. For quality miners like Yamana and Agnico-Eagle, though, I believe Fools could be the long-term benefactors of any earnings-driven malaise.

Further freshly mined Foolishness:

Gold is a hot topic on the blogs at Motley Fool CAPS. Join the free service today and see just how many Fools are taking the long view when it comes to investing in gold. The "Gold" tag at Motley Fool CAPS lists 32 companies, and you'll find Christopher's comments on most of them.

Fool contributor Christopher Barker captains yachts and writes about stocks. He can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He owns shares of Agnico-Eagle Mines, Freeport-McMoRan, Teck Cominco, and Yamana Gold. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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