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Take platinum, for example.
It is currently trading at about $1,500 an ounce, well off its 52-week high of $1,734 an ounce. During the height of the selloff last month, it touched a low of $1,381 an ounce.
Investors sold it along with all other precious metals, even though the fundamentals for platinum may be better than ever.
While platinum's long-term outlook is bright, a short-term price catalyst is about to take place, as early as this week.
The world's biggest platinum producer, ANGLO American Platinum (Amplats), could take a significant amount of platinum off the market. The restructuring could cost 14,000 jobs and close two South African mines.
It'll also help drive a supply deficit that will only expand in the years ahead, making platinum one of the best investments to make now before prices soar.
No wonder Sprott Holdings' Rick Rule bought $280 million worth of platinum and palladium earlier this year…
South African Labor Problems Grow
Platinum supplies are dropping to a 13-year low. After seven consecutive years of surpluses, the platinum market swung into a small deficit in 2012.
The main problem on the platinum supply side is South Africa, which mines about 80% of the world's platinum.
Labor strife last year in the country was the key driver behind a 12% drop in refined mine production.
The labor situation in South Africa is complicated. There are strikes by labor unions demanding better wages and improved working conditions from the current deplorable work environment.
In addition, there is also a battle (sometimes literally) between two unions – the National Union of Mineworkers and the much more militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union – for the hearts and minds of workers.
At the moment, the more militant union seems to have the upper hand. This will likely mean increased labor strife in the South African mining industry in the coming months.
SA Platinum Industry on the Decline
There is unlikely to be a quick solution to the problems in South Africa's platinum mining industry for one very simple reason: a lack of profitability.
According to Rick Rule, the South African platinum industry "does not meet its cost of capital."
He added "More than half the shafts are loss making."
Rule said a key reason is that the industry is very labor-intensive. The platinum ore deposits are far too thin for mechanical mining methods to make economic sense. Also there is intense political pressure against mechanization in order to keep the unemployment rate down.
Platinum mining is also very power-intensive, which presents another problem.