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High-Value Freight: How to Ship Precious Metals

High value freight like gold and silver requires special shipping precautions. Learn how to ship precious metals with a 3PL partner like R+L Global Logistics.

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Jon-Michael Soracchi
June 22, 2020
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Mining for gold or silver is hard, yet lucrative work. So the last thing you want to happen is not knowing how to ship precious metals, because the ensuing losses could be catastrophic to your company’s bottom line. Knowing how to protect again this occurring should be a huge concern for you.

While it takes some more precautions and careful strategy, planning on how to ship precious metals doesn’t have to be daunting, especially with the assistance that can be afforded to your business by a third-party logistics (3PL) company. Plan on using expedited shipping and also possibly an escort service to get the most peace of mind.

A stellar 3PL like R+L Global Logistics can prove invaluable in your search to find a company to partner with that can meet your unique needs and also help guide you through every aspect of shipping your precious metals. Keep reading to find out exactly how. 

Where Precious Metals are Mined in the United States

Where Precious Metals are Mined in the United States?

Before we launch headfirst into which states mine precious metals, let’s define what precious metals are. These are considered to be gold, silver and the platinum group of metals — which includes platinum, iridium, palladium, osmium, rhodium and ruthenium.

These metals have a few things in common that place them in this category: rarity, a high luster, a market demand, large monetary value and multiple uses. From a scientific standpoint, all of these metals are also malleable, resistant to corrosion and able to be stretched or hammered out without losing their natural strength (known as ductile). 

In fact, gold itself is considered so valuable that many countries’ economies around the world — including America — used to have its money backed by its reserves of the precious metal until the 20th century.

So it’s easy to say that people put a lot of stock into the precious metals. Whether it is in its raw form, shaped into jewelry, coins or bullion or even used as conductive material, the demand doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. A handful of America’s states provide a lot of the domestic precious metals.   

Nevada has a large role in the mining of precious metals in the United States. If you’re looking for gold or silver, look no further than the aptly-named Silver State itself. Nevada leads America in gold production, and it’s not particularly close.

The western state contributed nearly 80 percent of the country’s gold in 2018, which is 5 percent of the world’s total gold output. In fact, if Nevada is the fifth-biggest gold producer in the world behind China, Russia, Australia and Canada. The next biggest domestic producer of gold is Alaska, with about 10 percent of domestic production. As a country, the U.S. is fourth overall.

Meanwhile the largest platinum deposits in the U.S. reside in Montana, which has two large operating mines — Stillwater and East Boulder — that help make America the fifth-largest platinum-producing country as of 2018.

Alaska ranks first among states as a spot to mine silver. Funnily enough, the second largest outputter of silver in the state — Red Dog mine — is the world’s largest single source of zinc and the silver drawn out is just a byproduct of that operation. Arizona is also a major producer of silver, more than 80 percent of which comes as a byproduct of copper mining.

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

Regulations for Precious Metals

Unlike the Gold Rush in the 19th century, there are actual regulations in present day to make sure mining in general is regulated at both state and federal levels to make sure it is done correctly and as safely as possible.

One of the biggest ones is that in order to extract precious metals, you must pay for ownership, contracting or leasing the rights, from either the federal government or a private landowner. 

There are a number of different agreements that can come from this, where a company buys mineral rights and in turn must pay the owner of the land an upfront fee, royalties or a combination of both. If the mineral rights are leased, the two parties will come to terms on the rights of each prior to mining so there’s no grey area once operations are underway.

It is also worth keeping an eye on the political climate in the United States at the time you read this article, since there could be tariffs enacted on the export of your precious metals that will make your costs greater. You will then have to factor in if this will add to the cost that you sell for.

Another thing to note is that different states have various taxes on the precious metals you extract from the ground. Some are per ounce, or a flat percentage based on anything you withdraw from the Earth.

For instance, California taxes a $5 extraction tax per ounce on gold while Nevada and Alaska levies percentages of 5 and 7 percent, respectively, as a net tax on whatever amount of gold is mined in those states.

Shipping Precious Metal Ores

Shipping Precious Metal Ores

Once you’ve mined your precious metals, they are in the form of ore and need to be transported onto the next step to be further processed in order to be ready for retail. Depending on where in the country the precious metal is being mined, it can be shipped by rail, ship or truck, with rail and truck being the two most likely options.

Before it will ever reach some of those other delivery options, ore of any kind is usually taken from the mining site by dump truck to a processing center. To use an example, much of the gold the world is able to extract comes from hard rock mining. This means the gold, which is an element found inside rock formations, needs to be further processed to remove non-gold portions and make sure the gold is processed into something more pure for eventual retail.

The first step in processing ores is to break it into smaller pieces before it is loaded, which also helps it be shipped a bit more easily. From there, it is moved on for beneficiation, where it is further broken down to be shaped into its final form.

Regardless of which method of transport you use, know that to some degree a truck will be used for at least some part of the journey. Rail, plane or ship all share one same weakness in not being viable options to ship from door to door. Even if it’s just the beginning and end of the total trip, using trucks to ship your precious metal ores will be a link in the supply chain.

Shipping Gold and Silver Jewelry

Shipping Gold and Silver Jewelry

Because jewelry is both high value and — depending on the type — easily able to be scratched, the utmost care has to be taken in the shipping of it. The general understanding is the more pure the gold or silver is, the more likely it can exhibit scratches.

So when shipping jewelry that is ready to go to stores to be sold, you don’t want to package or ship it in a way where it can get damaged before reaching its final destination.

Bubble wrap can be your best friend here, as you can wrap pieces of jewelry tightly, both to secure it and protect it from any damage. Or if you’re shipping jewelry inside the boxes it will be sold in, those will provide ample protection. Whether you use bubble wrap, packaging paper or a small box, you’ll want to then place the jewelry into a bigger box.

This way, if the bigger outer box is dented, crushed or cut, the jewelry inside is safe and not compromised. If the jewelry were to be imperfect because of poor packaging during shipping, it will result in a reduction in price or an outright rejection for being unsuitable for sale. With a finite amount of gold or silver in the world.

The last thing you want to be concerned with, which is also an issue in the next section as well, is making sure your packaging is very plain and doesn’t draw any attention to the fact that it is jewelry. This will add a small level of passive security to your freight since people won’t be tempted to swipe some. 

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

How to Package Precious Metals for Shipping

The biggest key in packaging precious metals for shipping is to not have it be outwardly obvious that precious metals are what you’re shipping. Because of this, there are certain steps that need to be taken to ensure your boxed precious metals are as nondescript as possible.

First, it’s a good practice to put your precious metals in a double-walled box. These not only allow you to stack the boxes more easily without damage but will keep the fragile jewelry inside the boxes safer.

Furthermore, a nondescript cardboard box with no exterior labeling saying what the internal contents are should drastically reduce the possibility of potential theft at any point in the transit process.

Also, when you’re shipping high-value items like gold bars, jewelry or coins, you want to package the goods in such a way that they don’t rattle or otherwise make noise to alert anyone to what the contents may be.

Using paper or filament tape to securely tape up the box will also be prudent, both as additional security for the box and even make the outer edges and seams of the box tamper-proof.

How Much does it Cost to Ship Precious Metals?

How Much does it Cost to Ship Precious Metals

Shipping your precious metals with a trusted 3PL company can be worth its weight in gold

In order to ship precious metals, the cost will likely be higher than a regular shipment. This is based on the expected higher value of the load being transported and the fact that because of this high value, high risk load will require expedited freight shipping.

Also, there is a pretty good chance you will want to purchase your own insurance above and beyond what is standard with a freight load since your freight is so valuable — which will only add to the cost.

Also, when looking for a 3PL company, price is going to without a doubt be important. But this should also be weighed against what value the company can offer your business overall. A company that has built its operation on having a large network of partners, delivering your freight on time for a fair price and is available for you when a simple question or bigger issue arises is obviously more useful than a cheaper option that doesn’t focus on those pretty important aspects.

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

Why you Need Freight Insurance for Shipping Precious Metals

Purchasing freight insurance for the shipping of your precious metals is more than just another item to consider when transporting — it’s basically a necessity. 

Let’s look at rhodium for a second. While it might not be well-known among the precious metals like silver, gold and platinum, it is the most expensive one according to recent market values. A kilogram of rhodium — 2.2 pounds — would set an investor or business back nearly $70,000 to purchase. Furthermore, it is the most rare precious metal on Earth and is generally only mined as a byproduct of platinum mining.

Platinum is more than $26,000 per kilo while gold is over $50,000 for the same amount. While these values fluctuate, one fact remains: these precious metals are worth a lot of money in even very small quantities which are easily able to be picked up and walked away with. 

As the mining operation, you absolutely should insure these high value metals so that in the event this did happen to one of your loads, you would be partially or fully reimbursed depending on the type of insurance you opt for. A private insurance company can insure you for $500,000 — the value of about 22 pounds of gold — or more based on what you feel comfortable with.  

How Much Does Freight Insurance Cost?

How Much Does Freight Insurance Cost

With the inherently high value of the precious metals, insuring them against damage or theft is a smart move. Whether you’re just transporting ore or the finished products from your precious metals mining operations, sustaining a huge loss for factors outside of your control would be a huge blow.

So to get started, know that your 3PL will include standard freight insurance in the form of carrier liability. Carriers are required to carry a minimum amount of coverage. Still, as the customer, you should specifically ask your agent what exactly is covered and figure out yourself what additional insurance you may require. The carrier will generally offer per pound coverage, which may or may not cover the value of your load. 

At this point, it could also be worth it to purchase a policy through a third-party company that specializes in insuring high-value freight. They might be able to offer you more comprehensive coverage or favorable terms. In some cases, a 3PL that offers a wide array of services — like R+L Global Logistics — can even help broker additional coverage on your behalf

Freight insurance is going to be commensurate with the value of the shipment. There is no one price that could be given since the insurance will be based upon certain factors like the shipment’s total monetary value, weight, distance traveled and the actual calculated risk for the insurer.

As the business or person whose precious metals are at stake, the best two pieces of advice in terms of purchasing insurance are to make sure your load is fully covered and that you know exactly what that coverage entails — and get it all in writing.

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

Tracking High-Value Shipments of Precious Metals

Tracking High-Value Shipments of Precious Metals

Once strictly a military tool, a Global Positioning System (GPS) has really opened up the way civilians and businesses can use the power of navigational satellites high above the Earth to pinpoint an exact location for a device with a GPS receiver on it. GPS uses triangulation, where three (or four) signals from satellites are used to determine where you are.

Once it opened up in 2000 for wide scale, non-military usage, it made tracking exponentially more accurate. Currently, many 3PL companies employ freight haulers that are outfitted with GPS tracking units. This allows the freight to be pinpointed in real time so you know exactly where it is within three feet, which is plenty accurate for a live update.

Although there may be advancements around the corner that make the information even more accurate, this is the best way to do it right now. Also, the party having their goods shipped can view real-time freight tracking as an additional security feature since it can invoke peace of mind and a reference point should anything happen to your load.

Another aspect of being able to track when your load is actually delivered is requiring a signature at the time that the party receives your precious metals. Once the signature is acquired, you should receive a notification via email or text message letting you know so that there’s no wondering on your part.  

Advantages of Expedited Shipping for Precious Metals

Expedited shipping probably brings to mind a load of freight getting to its destination faster than usual, which is indeed one of the benefits of choosing this method of delivery. However, one of the biggest concerns with shipping precious metals is theft.

To this end, expedited shipping is a great partner for precious metals because of the strict time schedules and fewer people touching or in close proximity to your valuables. Expedited shipping is usually a two-man driving tandem that only stops for gas, food and bathroom breaks. So there is no changing the driving team, or your goods being moved from one truck to another. This cuts down on the likelihood that your goods would be damaged or lost during transit.

With a company like R+L Global Logistics, real-time freight visibility comes standard with every order, not just expedited shipping. But in terms of adding an additional peace of mind to your order, you can track where it is at all times so you know where it is at every step of the journey and not just when your package arrives.

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

Working with a 3PL for High-Value Shipments

If you’re part of a large mining operation that would rather concentrate on the output portion of the equation and not the planning needed afterward, then working with a 3PL company could prove to be very beneficial.

One of the biggest reasons is a 3PL can handle your shipping needs, whatever they may be. The values of expedited shipping has specifically been covered in the previous section, but it’s worth noting that a well-established 3PL with the experience and financial resources at their disposal to excel with your high-value shipments can make your day-to-day business dealings much easier.

But even more so than just simply handling your needs, a good 3PL should be able to scale its operations to fit your unique needs and not try to fit your precious metals into the same size “box” as everyone else.

First of all, a 3PL such as R+L Global Logistics knows every part of the supply chain inside and out. So not only do we have a good understanding of the challenges you might face, but also your needs and how to fulfil them. A truckful of gold ore, for instance, could have a worth of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, so securing that load and getting it to its next stop as soon as possible is a shared goal that an outstanding 3PL provider will make its top priority.

Also, while the focus might be mostly on domestic shipping, a 3PL can also help you with the international movement of freight as well. For example, the United States is a net exporter of gold. So the transport of that precious metal will involve some level of intermodal shipping, which is two or more different methods of freight hauling to complete a single shipment.

So if you need, let’s say, a truck shipment to a U.S. port to then go overseas via ship or even airplane, then a 3PL should easily be able to make that happen for you. Furthermore, a 3PL can even help you with other important aspects of shipping internationally like filling out the paperwork for you to export items, help with customs bonds and even assist with procuring additional insurance for your precious metals.    

High-Value Freight Escort Services

High-Value Freight Escort Services

Taking it a step further from just expedited shipping is High Value/High Risk cargo protection for valuable loads. Some of the services overlap with expedited shipping, like freight visibility, team drivers and controlled routing.

But additional security and enhancements are put in place to assure you that your precious metals will get where they’re intended to go. Those enhancements include:

  • Photos taken during pickup and dropoff for verification purposes
  • More insurance coverage options for the customer
  • Frequent contact with the driver and updates on the progression of the load
  • GPS tracking, at all times
  • No unscheduled stops or deviations from the mapped-out route

One area where a High Value/High Risk load can be further differentiated is by the use of escort services to add additional protection to secure your load. This would include a car which would follow the freight and be either armed or unarmed security. These shifts by escort security can be a few hours long or even up to several days and offer 24-hour surveillance. 

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

Ship High-Value Freight with R+L Global Logistics

Now that you know how to ship precious metals, consider entrusting the shipment of your valuable goods to R+L Global Logistics. As a customer-focused industry leader, our company’s goal revolves around shipping your freight to the fullest of your satisfaction.

One of the biggest ways R+L Global Logistics can help your goods is by getting them there in a timely manner. To that end, we boast a 99.5 percent on-time delivery rate; this means your precious metals will be there before or by the contracted time in the excellent condition they entered the truck.

Along with our commitment to timely deliveries, we also include real-time freight visibility with every load so you can tell exactly where your shipment is at any time and pair that with our industry-leading customer service that is available for you anytime you might need it. 

We are competitively priced and offer a great value proposition, including on our expedited shipping, which will not only get your freight to its destination faster but offers added layers of security to your load.

So when you’re ready for a 3PL to help you figure out how to ship precious metals, call R+L Global Logistics at 866.353.7178 for a free freight quote and to find out about the R+L difference.

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