Balancing Risk for Royalty Companies vs. Mining Companies
Risk is at the forefront of every company’s decision-making, especially for mining companies that operate large-scale mines in various jurisdictions.
While producing precious metals naturally carries a variety of risks, there is another way to get exposure to precious metals production with much lower risk: royalty companies.
Royalty companies provide up-front capital to miners in exchange for royalties on future mine production, providing a steady stream of revenue and precious metal exposure with far less risk attached to the company.
This graphic sponsored by Nomad Royalty looks at the risks royalty companies and mining companies face, and how royalty companies are able to mitigate and diversify with more flexibility to deliver stronger returns.
Trimming from the Top Line
By providing capital in exchange for a royalty or stream on a mine, royalty companies are an essential part of mine funding across the world. Along with competitively priced capital for mine developers, the lifetime royalties or streams received in return ensure royalty companies are invested in a mine’s lifelong success.
Mining royalty: A recurring percentage (typically between 0.5% to 3%) of revenue generated from a mine’s ore and mineral sales, paid out to the royalty holder.
Mining stream: An agreement for a recurring purchase of a percentage of a mine’s produced metals, at a previously agreed upon price (typically lower than the metal’s current market value). Typically mines will offer streams on metal by-products of the mine.
Royalties and streams are known as non-participating interests, meaning that the holders (royalty companies) have no obligation or expectation to further fund or assist with the mine’s production.
Along with this, royalties are from a mine’s top line revenue, meaning that the percentage given to royalty holders is calculated before operational expenses, sales costs, and other expenses are deducted. The difference between top line revenue and profit after expenses can be massive, changing the value of a royalty by millions of dollars.
|Year||Veladero Mine Revenue||Profit after AISC Deducted||2.5% Royalty of Revenue||2.5% Royalty of Profit|
Source: Mining Data Online
Both of these factors have a massive impact on the value of a royalty, as they ensure steady revenue shielded from the mine’s operational costs while requiring no maintenance or upkeep from the holder.
Sleeker Business, Lower Expenses
The nature of royalty companies naturally enables them to be lightweight businesses with incredibly low expenses. Compared to the many employees with varying skills needed to manage orebody exploration, project construction, and daily mine operations, royalty companies only require a tight team of specialized individuals.
While the top three gold mining companies (Newmont Goldcorp, Barrick Gold, and Newcrest Mining) have an average of around 15,500 employees each, the top three precious metals royalty companies (Franco-Nevada, Wheaton Precious Metals, and Royal Gold) each have less than 50 employees.
With minimal G&A expenses and no exposure to fluctuating operational costs, royalty companies skirt large amounts of operational risk compared to mining companies. Setting up a royalty agreement carries far less risk and takes much less time compared to developing a mine, meaning royalty companies can be much more nimble and lock down future revenue more easily.
This protection from operational risk allows for steadier revenue to ride out the bumpy market cycles commodities can have, and royalty companies typically have dividend policies to reflect this operational and financial stability.
More Freedom to Diversify Risk
The lightweight nature of royalty companies allows them more freedom and flexibility to diversify a variety of risks. By spreading out their capital properly, many of the risks mining companies struggle to avoid can be easily sidestepped by a royalty company.
While many mining companies tend to cluster their operations in single regions based on the assets they own or can purchase, royalty companies can more freely decide on which jurisdictions to set up royalty agreements. This also includes the perk of spreading out counterparty risk, as royalty companies can choose to work with a diverse selection of mine operators.
Along with diversifying royalties across jurisdictions and counterparties, royalty companies can carefully tune their portfolio’s exposure to specific commodities, unlike mining companies who cannot change what they find underground.
Royal Rewards for Reduced Risk
If having reduced exposure to this variety of risks wasn’t enough, royalty companies reap a variety of benefits compared to mine operators. Since royalty and stream agreements often last for the life of a mine, royalty holders receive the benefits of resource extension and mine expansion at no additional cost.
They also benefit from increases in precious metals prices, as increases in a mine’s revenue is reflected for royalty and stream holders as well. In times of metals price downturns, royalty companies are protected by their high margins and can use their cash reserves and credit to invest in royalties at a discount.
With far more freedom and flexibility in diversifying their risk, precious metals companies like Nomad Royalty provide investors exposure to gold and silver while protecting them from the many risks that plague the mining industry.
Mapped: U.S. Mineral Production, by State
This infographic breaks down $90.4 billion in non-fuel mineral production by state.
Mapped: U.S. Non-fuel Mineral Production, by State
Just how many minerals does the U.S. consume? In 2020, non-fuel mineral consumption worked out to around 19,000 pounds or 8.6 tonnes per person.
This includes metals like copper, iron ore, and zinc, along with construction sand, stone, cement, and other industrial minerals. With such high demand, changes in the production of these commodities often reflect how the overall economy is performing.
The above infographic maps U.S. non-fuel mineral production by state in 2021 using data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The Most Valuable Minerals
As the U.S. economy restarted in 2021, American mines generated over $90 billion in non-fuel mineral production, a 12% increase from 2020.
Before diving into the breakdown by state, here’s a look at production value by mineral type:
|Category||Production value||% of Total|
|Industrial minerals (excl. construction)||$27.4B||30.3%|
Each of the categories accounted for roughly one-third of the total production value, with metals making up the largest share. Within metals, copper and gold collectively accounted for 66% of the total, followed by iron ore (13%) and zinc (7%).
The production of sand, gravel, and crushed stone—important inputs for construction—also made up a significant chunk of the value, along with other industrial minerals. Furthermore, crushed stone was the leading non-fuel mineral in 2021, with $19.3 billion in production value.
Which States Lead in Mineral Production?
Arizona, Nevada, Texas, California, and Minnesota—the top five states—accounted for nearly 40% of non-fuel mineral production value.
|State||Value of Non-fuel Mineral Production||% of Total|
Arizona and Nevada, the top two states, are the country’s biggest producers of copper and gold, respectively. Arizona also produced over $1 billion worth of construction sand and gravel in 2021, in addition to being the country’s leading producer of gemstones.
In third place was Texas, where mines produced nearly $6 billion worth of non-fuel minerals, of which 38% came from crushed stone. California, meanwhile, led in the production of construction sand and gravel, and was the country’s sole source of rare earth elements.
Minnesota also made the top five as the nation’s largest producer of iron ore. In fact, mines in Minnesota and Michigan shipped 98% of domestic usable iron ore products in 2021.
The Missing Critical Minerals
Although the U.S. is a major producer of non-fuel minerals, it still relies on imports for the supply of several minerals.
In 2021, the U.S. imported $5.3 billion worth of raw materials, in addition to $90 billion in net imports of processed mineral materials. Of the 50 minerals deemed critical to national security, the country was 100% net import reliant for 26, including graphite, manganese, and several rare earth metals.
To meet the rising demand for these minerals, U.S. President Biden announced major investments in domestic critical mineral production, including a $35 million grant to MP Materials for the processing of rare earths.
It remains to be seen whether these investments will pay off in building more resilient, end-to-end domestic critical mineral supply chains.
Visualizing Ukraine’s Top Trading Partners and Products
This graphic visualizes Ukraine’s top international trading partners and the country’s most exported and imported products in 2020.
Visualizing Ukraine’s Top Trading Partners and Products
International trade was equal to 65% of Ukraine’s GDP in 2020, totaling to $102.9 billion of goods exchanged with countries around the world.
In 2014, Russia’s annexation of Crimea contributed to a 30% year-over-year drop in Ukraine’s 2015 trade value ($75.6B). Now, Ukraine’s international trade has been irreversibly disrupted since Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24th, 2022.
The current conflict continues to reshape geopolitical relations and international trade—and to give context to the situation, we’ve created this graphic using IMF and UN Comtrade data to showcase Ukraine’s largest trading partners and goods traded in 2020.
Ukraine’s Largest Trading Partners
Ukraine’s largest trading partner in 2020 was China, with the value of trade between the two countries reaching $15.3 billion, more than double the value of any other trading partner.
Germany ($7.4B), Poland ($7.4B), and Russia ($7.2B) were Ukraine’s next three largest trading partners, with the majority of Ukraine’s trade with these countries being imports.
|Country||Trade with Ukraine (2020)||Exports from Ukraine (%)||Imports to Ukraine (%)|
While most of Ukraine’s trade with top partners is made up of imports, trade with both India and the Netherlands (Ukraine’s ninth and tenth largest trading partners respectively) was more export driven, with exports holding a greater than 70% share of total trade value.
Ukraine’s Top Exports and Imports
Ukraine’s strong agricultural industry makes up a large share of the country’s exports in the form of cereals, animal and vegetable oils, and seed oils. These products made up nearly 35% of Ukraine’s exports in 2020, at a value of $17 billion collectively.
|Goods Exported from Ukraine (2020)||Dollar Value||Share of Exports|
|Iron and steel||$7.7B||15.6%|
|Animal or vegetable fats, oils, and other products||$5.8B||11.7%|
|Ores, slag, and ash||$4.4B||8.9%|
|Electrical machinery and equipment||$2.6B||5.2%|
Source: UN Comtrade
The other two cornerstones of Ukraine’s industry and exports are iron ore and steel, along with refined electrical machinery, equipment, and other mechanical appliances. In 2020, exports of crude iron and steel along with their refined products made up $13 billion in value, making up more than a quarter of Ukraine’s exports.
Ukraine’s imports are primarily vehicles, machinery, and the fuels necessary to power these goods. With the country’s energy consumption outpacing domestic energy production, mineral fuels and oils are Ukraine’s top import in 2020 at $7.42 billion.
|Goods Imported from Ukraine (2020)||Dollar Value||Share of Imports|
|Mineral fuels, oil, and mineral products||$7.4B||13.8%|
|Boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances||$6.3B||11.7%|
|Vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling stock||$5.5B||10.2%|
|Electrical machinery and equipment||$5.3B||9.9%|
Source: UN Comtrade
Primarily importing from Belarus, Russia, and Germany, Ukraine’s need for energy fuels was greatly exacerbated by Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, which held 80% of Ukraine’s oil and natural gas deposits in the Black Sea.
Various kinds of machinery, vehicles, and electrical equipment are the next largest categories of goods imported, cumulatively making up 31% ($17.1B) of Ukraine’s imports.
Ukraine’s Shift Away from Russian Trade Dependence
Since its independence from the former USSR in 1991, Ukraine has steadily shifted towards Western trading partners, especially as conflicts with Russia escalated in the 2010s.
After years of negotiations, Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the EU in 2014 facilitated free trade between EU nations and Ukraine, reducing the country’s dependence on trade with Russia.
Ukraine is one of the most important economic centers of the former Soviet Union, and it had long been the breadbasket of the USSR thanks to its fertile chernozem soil and strong agricultural industry.
Trade value between Russia and Ukraine peaked in 2011 at $49.2 billion, and since then has fallen by 85% to $7.2 billion in 2020. During this time, European nations like Poland and Germany overtook Russia in terms of trade value with Ukraine, and in 2021 trade with the EU totaled to more than $58 billion.
War’s Effect on Ukraine’s Future Trading Partners
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is rapidly reshaping both countries’ international relations and trading partners.
Four days into the recent conflict, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy filed for Ukraine’s special admission into the EU, which would further strengthen Ukraine’s trade with European Union members. Combining the likely breakdown of Ukrainian-Russian trade with China’s lack of condemnation of Russia’s actions, Ukraine’s trade seems likely to continue shifting towards the European Union and its Western allies.
While not exactly international trade, on February 26th the U.S. committed an additional $350 million in support to Ukraine, with American financial security assistance to Ukraine totaling $1 billion over the past year. Alongside the U.S., the EU recently committed €500 million in financial support, and multiple EU and non-EU nations are providing Ukraine with military aid.
Although it’s impossible to determine the results of this conflict and its effects on international trade, the countries supporting Ukraine’s defense today are likely to become the Ukraine’s top trading partners in the future.
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