The Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEArca: GDX) is 25.6% year-to-date and nearly 46% over the past year. In some cases, losses for gold miners exchange traded funds are worse than those posted by GDX, the largest gold miners ETF.

Falling gold prices are obviously problematic for GDX and rival gold miners funds, but some analysts see another, arguably surprising negative catalyst emerging: Copper. The iPath Dow Jones-UBS Copper Subindex Total Return ETN (NYSEArca: JJC) is down 17.2% over the past three months and that affects GDX and other miners funds because some big-name gold miners are also copper producers.

Potential gold mining victims of slumping copper prices include Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX), Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM), Buenaventura Mines (NYSE: BVN) and New Gold (NYSE: NGD), according to JPMorgan.

“Gold is the Cinderella commodity and is showing relative strength…While gold has been under pressure, the metal does have jewelry and investment demand while the base metals are suffering from weaker estimates for global and especially Chinese demand. Perversely, copper had its own semi-investment demand when it was used for collateral lending but if this category of demand falls away, prices could be weaker,” said the bank in a note posted by Ben Levisohn of Barron’s.

Barrick, Newmont, Buenaventura and New Gold combine for nearly 16% of GDX’s weight. In July, Goldman Sachs warned that copper, which is exposed to macroeconomic headwinds, is currently exposed to diverging monetary policies, deflation and deleveraging in China, the largest consumer of copper.

Moreover, Goldman believes that as China shifts from government spending and investment-fueled growth to private-sector consumption, the country’s copper demand will continue to fall.

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