Ben Bernanke has a money machine: It's called the printing press.
Until recently, only central banks enjoyed the distinction of creating money. Today, with paper currencies in Europe and the U.S. under significant structural stress, gold and silver miners have themselves become creators of money.
Into this context for gold and silver, low-cost miner Goldcorp (NYSE: GG ) is beautifully positioned to increase its production of money to generate more of the paper variety for the benefit of dollar-toting shareholders. Although Goldcorp's adjusted net income for the first quarter of 2010 was essentially flat with the prior-year result at $163.1 million, there is no cause for alarm. Goldcorp produced slightly more gold this time around, but nearly 56,000 ounces of gold that were produced never made it to market during the quarter.
A temporary work stoppage at port facilities in Argentina blocked copper-rich concentrates from the Alumbrera mine from setting sail, and an "inventory buildup" at Red Lake in Ontario widened the gap between production and sales. I now expect to see a modest discrepancy in sales from Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY ) , which also owns a 12.5% stake in Alumbrera. In a rising price environment, delayed sales can in fact be a blessing in disguise. In fact, as this multiyear bull market for gold and silver progresses further, I could envision miners routinely reporting such "inventory buildups," which I would read as code for: "We realized we could sell it for more next quarter."
Goldcorp did suffer a more significant loss during the first quarter: It lost to Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) its long-held distinction as the lowest-cost major gold producer. Newmont's incredible by-product cost of just $241 per ounce of gold solidly surpassed Goldcorp's still-competitive cost of $325. Saving face, the result still beat-out Barrick Gold's (NYSE: ABX ) first-quarter comparable cost of $342 per ounce.
Despite this symbolic setback, Goldcorp continues to hone its internal money machine. The all-important Penasquito project continues to ramp-up smoothly as we await completion of the mill's second sulphide processing line during the third quarter. This is music to the ears of investors in another money machine: Silver Wheaton (NYSE: SLW ) , which will receive 25% of Penasquito's silver production.
Silver Wheaton shares notched a noteworthy achievement of their own this week, surpassing their all-time high price from March 2008 with a coincident technical breakout above the spot price for silver.
Following a pair of aggressive and transformative acquisitions to build one of the industry's most impressive pipelines of long-term production growth, Goldcorp may not be as likely to trigger subsequent rounds of industry consolidation as cash-heavy rivals Barrick and Newmont. With assets that retain as much potential for organic growth through exploration as any miner I've scrutinized, however, I believe that Goldcorp will continue creating money with Bernanke-esque fervor.