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Silver is an entirely new market this week. Following CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton's public condemnation of "fraudulent efforts to persuade and deviously control" the precious metal's price, market participants should now be far less able to continue such deceit.
The lawsuits subsequently filed against JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) and HSBC Holdings (NYSE: HBC ) for damages resulting from that alleged manipulation should further serve to keep the silver market on the straight and narrow.
No one can be sure how these developments will affect silver prices in the near term. Fools who were already bullish on silver's prospects, however, will find added comfort in understanding that these events help pave the way for silver to truly shine.
Fortunately, Fools need not go back to the drawing board for a brand-new silver strategy. Holding roughly equal parts gold and silver bullion, Central Fund of Canada (AMEX: CEF ) remains my sterling pick for physical precious metal exposure. Physical bullion proxies involve important tax implications that must be well understood. Investors are infinitely more familiar with the iShares Silver Trust (NYSE: SLV ) , but I wish to remind Fools that JPMorgan Chase serves as the custodian for that fund's silver holdings.
Among the miners, I've been taking a fresh look at Hecla Mining (NYSE: HL ) this week, and I continue to like what I see. Hecla generated a healthy $41.9 million in net cash from operating activities during the third quarter, and a 31% jump in adjusted net earnings to $29.6 million. Hecla enjoyed a tasty combination of negative total cash costs for the quarter (negative $1.01 per ounce produced), while realizing an average silver sales price of $21.45 per ounce.
Looking forward, Hecla is targeting 60% production growth at the Lucky Friday mine over the next four years. Exploration success at the property has expanded the ore-body and improved the overall grade. At Greens Creek, Hecla seeks to tweak throughput (ore-processing capacity) for a 10% production increase. At the same time, Hecla is explicitly on the lookout for strategic acquisitions that will leverage the company's cash flow prowess to fast-track mine development.
As Endeavour Silver (AMEX: EXK ) CEO Bradford Cooke can attest, however, finding the right district-scale silver opportunity can involve a lengthy quest. With 140 million ounces of silver in reserves, and present annual production of less than 11 million ounces, Hecla can afford a bit of time to find just the right strategic play.
I continue to consider Hecla Mining one of several terrific investment opportunities in silver, and I'm still holding the stock myself. I've added Hecla and a host of related stocks to my silverminer CAPS portfolio, and I encourage you to cast a vote on the company within your own free CAPS account.