China investing in foreign mines and buying gold directly

It was just the tip of the iceberg. We're talking about last week's move by Zijin Mining Group to launch a $299 million bid for Norton Gold Fields, which operates the Paddington goldmine near Kalgoorlie.

There was some surprise expressed at this. While Chinese companies have been snapping up bulk and base metals projects around the world, it was generally thought they had little interest in picking up gold projects.

Think again. A very reliable source close to several gold companies tells us Chinese interests are not only taking stakes in explorers and miners, they are also buying gold directly from producers and shipping it home.

There is much talk in gold bug circles in the United States that the recent purchase by the Bank of International Settlements of more than 4 tonnes of gold may have been wholly or in part on behalf of the People's Bank of China.

Our source is quite clear on one thing: The move on NGF is just the beginning. China wants more gold and it doesn't want to pay full market price for it (as it doesn't for any mineral) so it will be looking to pick up more Australian gold producers and add the yellow metal to its existing central bank gold pile.

Not something the Perth Mint will be happy to hear.

Chinese interests took control last year at Laverton-area goldminer A1 Minerals, now renamed Stone Resources after its Hong Kong parent.

That parent took an unsuccessful lunge also at Crescent Gold. Last year a Chinese consortium spent $US79 million on a 17.7 per cent holding in Gold One International.

Chinese interests spent $80 million to buy the controlling stake in Australian-owned Zara gold project in Eritrea and Yunnan Tin owns 12.3 per cent of YTC Resources, which is developing the Hera goldmine near Cobar in New South Wales.

And Sovereign Gold, which featured here two weeks ago for uncovering long lost shafts on the Rocky River-Uralla goldfield in northern NSW, has subsequently signed up partner Jiangsu Geology & Engineering to pay $4 million to buy 30 per cent of two tenements.

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