Flagging a bottom in gold and gold mining exchange traded funds this year has been, well, fool’s gold. Despite the fact that physically backed gold ETFs, such as the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD), are lower by 26% in 2013, picking bottoms for bullion has proven to be a difficult task.

The line in the sand, at least for now, appears to be $1,200 an ounce. Below there, things could get ugly in a hurry for the yellow metal. If gold falls below the June low around $1,180 an ounce, “there’s a real possibility we to go $1,000 or lower,” the Wall Street Journal reported, citing Mark Arbeter, chief technical strategist at S&P Capital IQ.

Gold would need to lose about 19% from current levels to reach $1,000 an ounce on the downside. Assuming gold futures slip below $1,200 again and spend significant time laboring below that price point, the already beaten-up miners could be in store for more pain. That is a concept that is hard to imagine with the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEArca: GDX) down 55% this year. [Miners Vulnerable as Gold Prices Slide]

Even below $1,250 an ounce, some miners face concerns regarding their ability to profitably extract gold. Last week, TD Securities attempted to the answer the question “At what price do many miners begin feeling pain?,” concluding “that as a result of the cost reductions to date, producer balance sheets are relatively stable around $1,250/oz but would weaken further on lower gold prices. On the flip side, we expected balance sheets to de-lever at higher gold prices.” [Trouble for Miners Lurks With Gold Below $1,250/oz]

There is some technical hope. “While prices have made a lower low, some widely-followed momentum indicators, such as the Relative Strength Index, have been trending higher for the last six months. Chart watchers believe this bullish technical divergence suggests downward momentum has run out of steam. Eventually prices should follow momentum higher, they say,” reports Tomi Kilgore for the Journal.