Perth Mint harnesses blockchain and crypto-currency technology to bring gold into digital era


October 11, 2019 02:00:50

The Egyptians were on to it, so too were the Incas and the Aztecs. Thousands of years later, gold, the world’s most prized metal, has been brought into the modern era.

Key points:

  • The Perth Mint is behind the world’s first gold traded through blockchain technology that is linked back to physical gold
  • The gold token is billed as an alternative to traditional gold products and an alternative to other cryptocurrencies
  • Geopolitical tensions have seen investors flocking to the safe haven of gold

Blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin, Ethereum and Libra will now make it easier for consumers to buy and sell gold that is held in The Perth Mint vaults.

The 120-year-old mint, which is the world’s largest refinery of newly minted gold, has teamed with InfiGold to develop the Perth Mint Gold Token (PMGT).

“Our aim is to make gold accessible to as many people in as many places as we possibly can in the easiest way possible,” The Perth Mint chief executive officer Richard Hayes said.

Australia is the second-largest producer of the precious metal but owning it has sometimes been left to a select few.

“People have been able to buy gold for thousands of years,” he said.

“In recent times in Australia you could come to somewhere like The Perth Mint and buy a physical ounce of gold you could lock in your safe or put under your bed or bury in your back garden to keep it safe.”

Selling gold as cryptocurrency turns the hidden-under-the-bed model on its head.

“It means an ounce of gold can be purchased very easily, very quickly, with the convenience of a smartphone, without going through all of the physical transaction side of things,” Mr Hayes said.

“This is a world first in that there is physical gold that backs every unit and that gold is not only guaranteed by the government of Western Australia, but it is also physically stored through our network of central bank-grade vaults in Perth.”

Billions of dollars’ worth of gold is stored in its vaults and the mint says there is enough supply to support the anticipated demand for PMGT.

Gold shines in tough times

Amid global trade wars, attacks on oil tankers, Brexit uncertainty and low interest rates, the price of gold was pushed above $US1,500 an ounce in August and it has remained around that level since then.

“There’s certainly real demand for gold at the moment, particularly in Australian-dollar prices where we’re looking at record highs for gold,” CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy said.

“That demand suggests that this offering is very well timed.”

Mr McCarthy said the big swings which had been experienced by the likes of bitcoin were unlikely to occur with the PMGT.

“This is a step forward for the blockchain world and a very different beast to the traditional cryptocurrencies that we’ve seen like bitcoin,” Mr McCarthy explained.

“It’s tied to a physical asset and that means the big swings we see in cryptocurrencies are less likely in a currency that’s backed 1:1 with gold.”

Market watchers say that will make this a more attractive cryptocurrency to people wanting to dip their toes in.

“It will attract people who wouldn’t normally invest in cryptocurrency because they will have the confidence that it’s backed by the gold,” futurist Steve Sammartino said.

“This is an easy way to invest in gold in small amounts, rather than a safe way to have cryptocurrency.”

But Mr Sammartino said the very fact PMGT was linked to physical gold also brought its cryptocurrency status into question.

“In real terms I can’t really see any of the benefit of it,” he said.

“As soon as you back a cryptocurrency with a real asset, it actually reduces the value of what the cryptocurrency is.

“The idea of a cryptocurrency is that no-one owns it or controls it, and the amount of liquidity — or coins on the market — is determined by mathematics, so as soon as you base it on an asset it actually defeats that purpose.”

“In many ways it’s just a branding element,” he said.

Mr McCarthy agreed.

“The blockchain technology is simply a bolt-on here; it’s simply a more convenient way of doing it,” he said.

“But I think that combination of convenience and exposure to a desirable asset could mean it’s very popular,” he said.

Owners of the PMGT will have the option of keeping their gold stored in the mint’s vaults, physically taking it away with them, or continuing to trade it using blockchain technology. 






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