Everything You Need To Know About the Gold Industry

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Background

On the Periodic Table of Elements, the 79th element is gold, and it is one of the more recognizable of the bunch. It is a shiny and malleable element, which makes it a good metalworking material. It represents a small fraction of the elements in the known universe. Its uncommonness is owed to the incomprehensible amount of energy required for its formation. Gold is formed in stars, but only those that are exploding in giant supernovas or incredibly dense ones that have come together in shockingly powerful collisions.[1]

Gold is among the four primary precious metals, along with silver, platinum, and palladium. There are some people who argue that gold has no intrinsic value and that it is a barbaric relic that no longer holds the monetary qualities of the past. For them, in a modern economic environment, paper currency is the money of choice, and the worth of gold is only as a material to make jewelry. On the other hand, there are also people who assert that gold is an asset with different intrinsic qualities that make it unique and essential for investors to hold in their portfolios. For them, investors have as many reasons for investing in gold as they do in vehicles to make those investments.[2]

Mining gold is a global industry, and it has operations on every continent except Antarctica. It is extracted from mines of widely varying types and scales. At the present time, gold mining operations have become increasingly geographically diverse. It has been far removed from the concentrated supply of four decades or so ago when the majority of the gold in the world came from South Africa.[3] With this, how much gold do you think is mined each year, how much gold has ever been mined in the world, and which countries do you think have the biggest gold reserves? If you also have these questions in your mind, we are here to help you. In this post, we are giving you lots of information on everything you need to know about the gold industry.

Brief History of Gold

gold ores

Thousands of years ago, a child found a shiny rock in a creek, and for the first time, the human race was introduced to gold. It was first discovered as shining, yellow nuggets. Since gold is dispersed widely throughout the world, its discovery happened to many different groups in various places. Almost everyone who found it was impressed with it, along with the developing culture in which they live.

Gold was the very first metal widely known to our species. When you think about the historical progress of technology, most of us often consider the development of iron and copper, working as the greatest contributions to the economic and cultural progress of humans. However, before these, gold came first.[4]

How Was Gold Used in the Ancient World?

a gold-colored Sphinx

Gold was one of the first metals to be mined as it commonly occurs in its native form, which is not combined with other elements since it is beautiful and imperishable and because exquisite objects can be made using it. In the ancient civilizations, artisans used gold lavishly in decorating tombs and temples. In fact, gold objects made more than 5,000 years ago have been discovered in Egypt. Specifically noteworthy are the gold items discovered by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in 1922 in the tomb of Tutankhamun.[5]

The tombs of nobles at the ancient Citadel of Mycenae near Nauplion, Greece, which was discovered in 1876 by Heinrich Schliemann, yielded a great variety of gold jewelry, figurines, cups, masks, and diadems, along with hundreds of decorated beads and buttons. These works were done by skilled craftsmen over 3,500 years ago.

Sources of Gold in the Ancient Times

golden rocks

The ancient civilizations appear to have gotten their supplies of gold from different deposits in the Middle East. Pits in the region of the Upper Nile near the Red Sea and in the Nubian Desert area provided much of the gold utilized by the Egyptian pharaohs. However, when these mines could no longer meet their demands, deposits in other places, possibly in South Africa and Yemen, were exploited.

Artisans in Palestine and Mesopotamia probably got their supplies of gold from Arabia and Egypt. Based on recent studies of the Mahd Adh Dhahab, which means “Cradle of Gold,” mines in the present Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reveal that gold, copper, and silver were recovered from this region during the reign of King Solomon.

The gold in the Aztec and Inca treasuries of Mexico and Peru is believed to have come from Colombia. However, some were undoubtedly obtained from other sources. The treasuries of these civilizations were plundered by the Conquistadors during their explorations of the New World. Lots of gold and silver objects were melted and cast into coins and bars and destroying the priceless artifacts of the Indian culture.[5]

Early Gold Finds and Production

inside a gold mine

As early as 1792, gold was produced in the southern Appalachian region and around 1775 in southern California. With the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in California, the gold rush of 1849 to 1850 began, and hundreds of mining camps rose to life as new deposits were discovered. With this, the production of gold increased fast.

During the 1860s, deposits in the Mother Lode and Grass Valley districts in California and the Comstock Lode in Nevada were discovered. In 1892, the Cripple Creek deposits in Colorado started to produce gold. The Tonopah and Goldfield deposits in Nevada and the Alaskan placer deposits were then discovered in 1905. For the first time, the production of gold in the United States exceeded 4 million troy ounces a year, which was a level maintained until 1917.[5]

The Worldwide Gold Industry By The Numbers

In this part, we are going to take a look at the numbers and statistics in the gold industry. This includes the gold market, the different gold sectors, and everything about gold mining in the world.

The Global Gold Demand Share by Sector (2021)

As mentioned earlier, gold is a transition metal that has characteristically bright yellow coloring. In addition to its most popular use in jewelry making, it also has many other useful applications. On the graph below, you can see the global gold demand share by sector in 2021.

The Global Gold Demand Share by Sector 2021

The jewelry industry accounted for a 55.4% share of global gold demand in 2021, which amounted to around 2,229 metric tons of gold. Jewelry has been the biggest gold-demanding industry in the world in recent years. In addition to that, since gold is a very efficient conductor that can carry tiny electrical charges, it is also found in televisions and cell phones. In 2021, 8.2% of global gold demand came from the technology sector. Aside from that, gold was also used in dentistry because it was the best material for crowns and fillings as it is easy to insert. The second-largest demand sector for gold in 2021 was gold investment. It accounted for a quarter of global gold demand.[6]

Worldwide Gold Mine Production

On the graph below, you can see the production of gold mines in the world from 2010 to 2021.

Worldwide Gold Mine Production (2010 - 2021)

After the 2008 economic crisis, the global mine production of gold rose steadily. The gold mine production worldwide in 2008 totaled 2,2280 metric tons, and it has increased by more than 3,000 metric tons annually since 2015. In 2010, some 2,560 metric tons of gold were produced globally.  In 2018 and 2019, over the course of the decade, the production of gold increased to a peak of 3,300 metric tons. In 2021, the worldwide gold production amounted to 3,000 metric tons.[7]

Distribution of Gold Reserves Worldwide by Country

On the graph below, you can see the distribution of gold reserves globally by country in 2019.

Distribution of Gold Reserves Worldwide by Country (2019)

Australia had the largest gold reserves in the world in 2019, with a share of 20% of the total gold reserves globally. In that year, the global reserves of gold were estimated at around 50,000 metric tons.[8]

Average Prices for Gold Globally

The graph below shows the statistics when it comes to the average prices of gold worldwide.

Average Prices for Gold Globally (2014 - 2025)

This graph shows the average annual prices for gold from 2014 through 2025*. In 2020, the average price for gold remained at 1,770 nominal U.S. dollars per troy ounce. It is projected to go down to 1,708 nominal U.S. dollars per troy ounce in 2025.[9]

How Much Gold Has Been Found in the World?

To date, there have been around 244,000 metric tons of gold discovered. About 187,000 metric tons of gold were historically produced, plus 57,000 metric tons of gold unmined from current underground reserves. Most of these came from just three countries which are China, Australia, and South Africa. In 2016, the United States ranked fourth in gold production.[10]

How Much Gold Has Been Found in the World

All of the gold discovered in the world thus far can fit in a cube that is 28 meters wide on every side. The majority of gold fabricated today goes into the manufacture of jewelry. However, gold is also an essential industrial metal that is used in critical functions in spacecraft, computers, jet aircraft engines, communications equipment, and more.

The Largest Producers of Gold by Country

In 2021, the gold mine production worldwide accounted for about 3,000 metric tons, which is approximately on par with the gold mined in 2020. Let us take a look at the countries that produced the largest amount of gold during that time.

The Largest Producers of Gold by Country (2021)

1. China

In 2021, China was the largest producer of gold in the world. The country had mined 370 MT, which is a bit higher than its 365 MT in 2020. It has held its top position for over a decade. Based on the World Gold Council, China is also the leading consumer of gold jewelry in the world.[11]

2. Australia

The gold production of Australia in 2021 amounted to 330 MT, which increased by 2MT marginally from the previous year. The recent exploration activity in the Pilbara region of Western Australia helped the country increase its gold output. [11]

3. Russia

Russia remained the third-largest producer of gold in 2021. Its output has been increasing over the past few years. From 255 MT in 2017, its gold production increased to 305 MT in 2020. Based on studies, Russia is reportedly planning to raise its gold output in a bid to become the largest gold producer in the world by 2029. [11]

4. United States

Over the past few years, the gold production in the United States has been decreasing. The United States produced 180 MT of gold in 2021, which was down by 20 MT from the previous year. Most of the gold produced in the country was at more than 40 lode mines, some larger mines in Alaska, and a few smaller placer mines in the Western United States. The top 26 operations in the nation were accountable for 98% of the gold output in America. [11]

5. Canada

The gold production in Canada for 2021 was on par with 2020. With this, the country has maintained its position as the fifth-largest producer of gold with 170 MT. However, that figure was down from 175 MT in 2019 and 183 MT in 2018. Quebec and Ontario are the largest gold-producing provinces in Canada. When combined, they represent over 70% of the gold output in Canada. According to the Canadian government, gold is the country’s most valuable mined commodity, with C$12.3 billion worth of gold produced in 2020. [11]

6. Ghana

Ghana is the sixth largest gold-producing country in 2021. Its gold production increased a bit by 5 MT from the previous year. Also, Ghana is the largest gold producer in Africa. It has overtaken South Africa in recent years. [11]

7. Mexico, South Africa, and Uzbekistan

Mexico is among the most notable producers of gold in the world, and it tied with South Africa and Uzbekistan for the 7th spot. The gold output of Mexico in 2021 fell a bit to 100 MT.

South Africa has also been among the top gold producers in the world for decades. In recent years, the country has been hit with political strife due to skirmishes amongst the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and gold manufacturers in the area. With this, its gold output fell by 85% from 1980 to 2018.

Uzbekistan has one of the largest open-pit mines in the world, which is the Muruntau gold mine. The country has been producing gold from old mines for quite some time. However, it has not seen much exploration investment. [11]

8. Indonesia, Peru, and Sudan

These three countries are tied for the eighth spot on the list of largest gold producers in the world. Half of the gold produced in Indonesia came from the Freeport-McMoRan’s Grasberg mine, which is the largest gold mine in the world and is believed to contain the largest gold reserves globally.

Peru’s gold production in 2021 increased by 3 MT from the previous year. However, illegal gold mining is one of the struggles of the country. It has been responsible for the devastation of land, including patches of the precious Amazon forests.

Sudan is quite new to the list of the top gold-producing countries in the world. The gold industry in this country is also affected by protests against environmental degradation and gold smuggling. A gold mine collapsed in 2021, which killed 38 artisanal miners. [11]

The Top Largest Gold Mining Companies in the World

machinery used to process gold in the mines

The largest gold mining companies in the world are found in diverse regions, from Africa and Asia to South America, the United States, and Russia. Based on the US Geological Survey, there are about 53,000 tons of global gold reserves, with an estimated 3,200 tons mined worldwide in 2020, which was a roughly 5% annual decrease in output caused by the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic. The top gold mining companies benefited from the rising commodity prices during the year as investors turned to gold amid a downturn in traditional financial markets.[12]

Below are the top largest gold mining companies in the world:

The Top Largest Gold Mining Companies in the World (2020)

1. Newmont

Newmont is a Colorado-based company. It is the biggest gold miner in the world, producing more than 5.8 million ounces of gold in 2020. Even with an almost 9% year-on-year production decline, the company retained its top spot among the world’s largest gold mining companies. The company has operations across Africa, North America, Australia, and South America. It also has mine reserves totaling 94.2 million attributable ounces of gold. It is currently headed by chief executive officer Tom Palmer.[12]

2. Barrick Gold

Barrick Gold is a gold mining company headquartered in Toronto, Canada. In 2020, it produced 4.8 million ounces of gold, falling by 13% compared to the previous year. The company also operates in 13 countries across South America, North America, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, and Africa.

The operations of Barrick Gold include six tiers and one gold mine, including Loulo-Gounkoto in Mali, Cortez, Carlin, and Turquoise Ridge in Nevada, Kibali in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic. The chief executive officer of the company is Mark Bristow, who formerly headed Randgold before the company merged with Barrick Gold.[12]

3. AngloGold Ashanti

AngloGold Ashanti is a South Africa-based company that is the biggest producer of gold in Africa. It produced just over 3 million ounces of gold in 2020, which was a 7% decline from the previous year. It primarily operates in Africa, with operations in Ghana, Guinea, the DRC, Mali, and Tanzania. It finalized the sale of its two remaining South African assets in 2020, which are Mponeng and Surface Operations.

The company was formed as an entity in 2004, after the merger of AngloGold and Ashanti Goldfields. Currently, the interim chief executive of the company is Christine Ramon, stepping in after the resignation of former CEO Kelvin Dushnisky in 2020.[12]

4. Polyus

The largest gold mining company in Russia is Polyus. In 2020, it produced under 2.8 million ounces of gold, which is a 3% year-on-year decline. The company has a portfolio of mines across Russia, mostly in Siberia. According to the company, it has proven and probable gold reserves totaling 61 million ounces, wherein 24 million ounces are held by the Olimpiada project. Since 2013, Pavel Grachev has been the chief executive officer of the company.[12]

5. Kinross Gold

Kinross Gold is another gold mining company based in Toronto. In 2020, it had produced under 2.4 million ounces of gold, which marked a 6% output decline compared to a year earlier. The company was founded in 1993, and it operates a portfolio of mines and projects in the United States, Ghana, Russia, Chile, Brazil, and Mauritania. The majority of its production activity takes place in the Americas region. Since 2012, its chief executive officer has been Paul Rollinson.[12]

Interesting Facts About Gold

gold bars

If you are looking into learning more about gold, below are some of the interesting facts about it that you need to know:

  1. Did you know that if all the existing gold in the world was pulled into a 5-micron thick wire, it would be able to wrap around the world 11.2 million times?
  2. The boiling point of gold is 2,808 degrees centigrade or 5,086.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. It is more difficult to find a one-ounce nugget of gold compared to a five-carat diamond.
  4. Gold melts at 1,064 degrees centigrade or 1,947.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Around half of all the gold mined today, or 49% of it, is made into jewelry, which stays the single largest use for gold.
  6. More than 90% of the world’s gold has been mined since the California Gold Rush.
  7. One ounce of gold can be stretched to a distance of 50 miles, and the resulting wire would be just 5 microns wide.
  8. Gold is the one metal that is yellow or golden. Other metals may develop a similar color, but only when they are oxidized or when they react with other chemicals.
  9. Almost all the gold on the planet came from meteorites that bombarded the Earth over 200 million years after it formed.
  10. The element symbol for gold is Au. It came from the Latin name aurum, which means “shining dawn” or “glow of sunrise.”
  11. Gold is the most flexible element. An ounce of gold can be flattened into a 300-square-foot sheet. It can be made thin enough to be transparent.
  12. Even though gold is a heavy and dense type of metal, it is nontoxic. Gold metal flakes are edible in foods or drinks. However, it is also a common allergen for some.
  13. Aside from the monetary and symbolic value of gold, it is also used in medicine, dentistry, electronics, electrical wiring, radiation shielding, and coloring glass.
  14. Pure gold is so soft that you can mold it by hand.
  15. Compared to gold, silver is rarer. However, gold has far more value.
  16. There were Native American tribes who believed that the ingestion of gold would enable humans to levitate.
  17. The helmet visors of astronauts are coated in extra-thin gold. It helps reduce glare and heat from direct sunlight.
  18. The ocean contains 20 million pounds of gold. However, gold in the ocean waters is so dilute that it would look like sugar grains in a gallon of unstirred coffee.
  19. The Olympic gold medals given in 1912 were made entirely from gold.
  20. Back in the 14th century, molten gold and crushed emeralds were used to treat the bubonic plague.
  21. Human bodies contain 0.2% of gold. Each strand of our hair may have traces of 14 various elements, including gold. Our blood also has trace amounts of gold.
  22. The vibrations from quakes stir up gold deposits from crevices and the water, gathering to form solids or ores. This means that earthquakes can turn water into gold.
  23. All the gold ever excavated so far can fit into three Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  24. There are people who have a fear of gold, and it is called Aurophobia. They fear gold due to its appearance or what it represents, such as power or death.
  25. Gold is typically alloyed with other metals to change its color and strength.18-karat gold is composed of 750 parts of pure gold per 1,000.

Conclusion

Gold is indeed among the most interesting and precious metals in the world. It is the only true yellow metal on Earth and has always been the symbol of luxury and the elite. Men have fought wars and dominated for gold historically. But today, it can also be found in our gadgets like cell phones and computers, and even added to our food and drinks. It has truly remained one of the most prolific metals that humans use every day. It has been utilized for coinage, jewelry, and other forms of art throughout human civilization.

There are truly a lot of uses for gold at the present time. No wonder the gold industry has been successful for many years, and there seems to be a bright future for it, too. From your pieces of jewelry to your high-tech gadgets, gold is indeed everywhere. We hope this post helped you learn more about the gold industry.

References

[1] Pappas, S. (2022, March 3). Gold: Facts, history and uses of the most malleable chemical element. LiveScience. Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://www.livescience.com/39187-facts-about-gold.html

[2] Tardi, C. (2022, February 26). Why has gold always been valuable? Investopedia. Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/071114/why-gold-has-always-had-value.asp

[3] World Gold Council. (2017, December 14). Gold mining. World Gold Council. Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://www.gold.org/gold-supply/gold-mining

[4] Only Gold. (2019, February 7). History of gold. Only Gold. Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://onlygold.com/facts-statistics/history-of-gold/

[5] Kirkemo, H., Newman, W. L., & Ashley, R. P. (2020). Gold. geology. Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://geology.com/usgs/gold

[6] Garside, M. (2022, May 23). Gold demand worldwide by industry share 2021. Statista. Retrieved June 20, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/299609/gold-demand-by-industry-sector-share/

[7] Garside, M. (2022, March 5). Gold production in World 2005-2020. Statista. Retrieved June 20, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/238414/global-gold-production-since-2005/

[8] Garside, M. (2021, March 29). Global gold reserves distribution by country. Statista. Retrieved June 20, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/605661/distribution-of-gold-reserves-worldwide-by-select-country/

[9] O’Neill, A. (2022, February 23). Average prices for gold worldwide from 2014 to 2025. Statista. Retrieved June 20, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/675890/average-prices-gold-worldwide/

[10] USGS. (2021). How much gold has been found in the world? How much gold has been found in the world? | U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved June 20, 2022, from https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/how-much-gold-has-been-found-world

[11] Pistilli, M. (2022, February 17). 12 largest producers of gold by country (updated 2022). INN. Retrieved June 20, 2022, from https://investingnews.com/daily/resource-investing/precious-metals-investing/gold-investing/top-gold-producing-countries/

[12] NS Energy Staff Writer. (2021, May 4). Top Five largest gold mining companies by production in 2020. NS Energy. Retrieved June 20, 2022, from https://www.nsenergybusiness.com/features/largest-gold-mining-companies/  \

[13] World Gold Council. (2017, December 14). 24 facts about gold. World Gold Council. Retrieved June 20, 2022, from https://www.gold.org/about-gold/gold-facts

[14] Anne Marie Helmenstine, P. D. (2020, January 30). Do you know these 10 fun facts about gold? ThoughtCo. Retrieved June 20, 2022, from https://www.thoughtco.com/interesting-gold-facts-607641

[15] Sophia (2022, January 5). 55 interesting facts about gold you may not know. Facts.net. Retrieved June 20, 2022, from https://facts.net/gold-facts/

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