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What is the Cost of Mining Gold?

We’ve analyzed the Top 50 Gold Mines to find the cost per ounce of gold by continent.

What is the cost of mining gold?

By using data from the world’s top 50 gold mines, we’ve analyzed the all-in costs per each continent and also reviewed future deposits coming online in the future. The top 50 gold mines alone contain more than 33.5% of the world’s gold ounces.

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40 Responses to “What is the Cost of Mining Gold?”

  1. Rogelio Laraya says:

    I recently retired from a mining company. In June I will be teaching a course on estimations in economic geology at the Univ of the Philippines.

    I have been following your materials as part of my former job in the mining company and have seen how they can be useful to the undergrads in geology.

    My question is: would you share your material with the university and its students on a pro bono basis or with an academic discount? Anything I can get from your site will be prominently acknowledged.

    Sincerely,

    Rogelio G Laraya, PhD
    (soon to be) Professorial Lecturer
    National Institute of Geosciences

    • Prof T Smith says:

      NO. Do your own homework.

      • Richard Spooner says:

        I saw your curt and impolite reply to a professor about making your materials available as teaching aids. You sound like an arrogant cretin who never learned basic civility. Jackass.

        Sincerely,
        RB Spooner

        • Billy Gold says:

          How do you know that Professor t Smith is the author? When we start to believe EVERYTHING we see from the internet we are in serious trouble.

      • kitkatt says:

        Agreed, you are quite the arrogant jackass for such a rude reply to a respectful inquiry

  2. huemaurice says:

    Bonjour,

    Serait-il possible d’avoir les tableaux traduisibles en toutes langues ?

    Nota: Les hauteurs des modules de l’Europe 2% et asie 18% ne sont pas proportionnellement représentatifs ! La hauteur de l’Asie devrait être 9 fois plus élevée que celle de l’Europe.

    Merci

  3. Helmut Pollinger says:

    Is the average grade of 5.3 g/t right? I thought it is much lower! I have heard that the average grade of all mines woirld wide is below 1.0 g/t

    • Don Phillips says:

      Once again, READ as TOP 50 not bottom 20,000 mines. Profitable leach pads can be in the sub gram like .3 gr/ton. where you’d go bust fast if you floated or milled it. Eighthaero

      http://www.argonautgold.com/news_events/news/index.php?&content_id=133

    • Bill Jackson says:

      Helmut, there are many types of mines. The few that can mine below 1 gram are usually the large open pits, which can deal with as low a grade as .5 gram per ounce with conventional crush and Carbon in Pulp processing. There are also the low grade open pits that are below 0.6 to .1 which can be heaped on surface pads and heap leached. Below .1, most gold comes out as a byproduct of mining Copper or Zinc as a byproduct.
      Most deep mines with large deposits that can be block caved are mineable down to 2.5 or 3 grams per ton. New hard rock mines are hard to start at current prices, unless other local mills can be used for milling which makes the Capex smaller. Often in the older camps there are well maintained,,but unused mills for hire. Far from any camp, the Capex and grades rule.As the mines get narrower and deeper the mineable grade goes up to 7 to 10 grams per ton. These are just generalizations, because the cost of labor and the price of gold move these figures up and down. In addition, mine operators can hedge their production for years in advance, and if they guessed right – they win. For example, if a miner had sold his production for 3 years at $1725 per ounce in 2012, he would have looked like a loser, until gold fell in 2013, and he has $1725 locked in for the balance of the hedge.
      So mine building, operation, etc are complex tasks. Google the topic and read more.

  4. doug churchill says:

    I think your calculation for tonnage required might be incorrect … you say 9.4 tons needs to be moved for a golf ball sized gold nugget.

    Try this:
    The diameter of a golf ball is about, D = 4.27 cm.
    Volume of a sphere is given by, v = [pi x D3]/6 = [3.1416 x (4.27 cm)3]/6
    Volume of the ball; v = 40.8 cm3 ( 3 digit rounded figure )
    Density of pure gold; d = 19.3 g/cm3
    Mass of gold in this volume of gold is given by; m = d x V
    m = 19.3 g/cm3 x 40.8 cm3 = 787 g ( 3 digit rounded figure )
    Price of gold Troy ounce closing November 18, 2011; $ 1 724,80 (dollars)
    1 Troy ounce = 31.1034768 g
    So, 787 g x [(1 oz)/(31.10 g)] = 25 OZ.

    787/5.3 g/t =148.5 tonnes of ore or 148 Volkswagen Beetles needs to be moved.

    • Don Phillips says:

      Try READING first. It was weight of the ball or no more than 1.62 oz so divide that 25 oz by 15.432 to get 10.256 VWs and make them fully loaded with the old bud vase and baggage for 2 adults. Eighthaero.

      • Mick says:

        Thanks Doug.
        Don, I think the article is misleading in this sense, even though you are technically right.
        Given the density of gold, perhaps a better object could be used? (a golf ball is rather low density, but when displayed, its the volume and visual representation of it ‘being made of solid gold’ (25oz) that are a bit misleading – the mass contained in a golf-ball weight worth of gold would be more like a pea size volume.

        Perhaps you could say that 9 VW beetles of earth are required to be mined to get a pea size piece of gold?
        (instead of saying a golf ball weight of gold, (or drink bottle weight of gold or some other less useful analogy)).

        Just a thought.

        Otherwise I love your work.

    • BigDaddy2000 says:

      Please read carefully. The document said one golf ball wait not one golf ball size. The weight of one golf ball is no more than 1.62 oz.

  5. The real cost of mining has been underestimated for the last 10 years. The most accurate way to assess the cost of extraction per ounce is to assume the Free Cash Flow over the years is zero against the total production. This strips out a lot more of the “one offs” that happen most years. Our estimate for 2013 for producing an ounce of gold as an industry wide average is $1768/ ounce. Anything less than that the industry experiences negative free cash flow. Hence the potential decision for miners to hedge their production and lock in a guaranteed loss is as surprising today from a rational standpoint as it was in 1990s. It was a bad idea then and it will be a worse idea today.

  6. CanaDave says:

    Cool infographic!

  7. Michael says:

    What about China?

  8. thomas says:

    there is a general error in the laying out of gold mining costs and averages even if its only on the basis of country or continent. this is because the average is going to change based on market value.

    Think of it this way: The average means that some are at $ 290/oz cash cost and others are at $1500/oz cash cost…. Those mines that operate at a mining cash cost higher than market value will go out of business, unless they can consolidate a loss – mine with another one that is a profit mine, because they own and operate multiple mines. And they would do that of course only to keep the losing mine in operation until the market value will justify it… and if they run out of resources then they have to close that mine and lay off all personnel…. either permanently or until it is feasible again to mine.

    How does this affect the ‘average’? Just think of the relevance. From a pure business stance, it is very relevant whether you need to shut down a mine or not. And if it is a non-producing mine, the cash cost for mining 1 oz cannot or should not be included in the average. Only therefore include the cost/oz of a mine that can sustain itself. Otherwise the purpose of this report is just as ridiculous as counting KIA dead military personnel as part of a standing army.

  9. Goudprijs says:

    Great infographic, would it be possible for a future update to also provide a cost per ounce of mining silver?
    A lot of gold and silver bugs are always telling that most mines are losing money with the current ‘low’ gold and silver price, but it’s time for them to wake up I think.

  10. wray Hessler says:

    Gold nuggets are found in placer mining (river, stream beds, gravel, etc.) and probably not the size of a golf ball; whereas actual Hardrock mining produces gold mineral ore, often in conjunction with other metals: silver, copper…and would need to be processed (Milled or roasted). AND Assays continually change while mining your underground vein or adjacent mineral may be high-grade ore, let alone the surface Tailing (waste rock and un-milled mineral taken out of mines historically). Here in Colorado mining costs range widely due to the conditions of the project mine.

  11. John Pilafas says:

    Hey Guys,
    Thanks for the info, very interesting.
    As a silver guy, any chance you’ll be doing similar work on the silver industry ?
    As over 50% of raw silver production is used for industrial one time usage (vs. gold which is basically produced and stored above ground), I think knowing a truer
    production cost impacts the supply / demand argument much more.
    Thanks again !

  12. Jay says:

    What a great infographic, very well done! Thanks a lot :)

  13. NATHAN WANDA says:

    Thanks for the information.

    What is the lowest cut off mine grade and from which mine in the world?

    bye

  14. Benny says:

    Are you guys going to publish a ‘reference list’ of some sort? Just wondering where these facts and figures have come from. It looks great – don’t get me wrong, I just wonder if this research was the result of academic journals, company press releases, general market date collected by someone etc? Thanks for publishing. Regards;

  15. Jeff says:

    Hi Benny,

    We have our own in-house analyst team that computed these numbers from the financial statements of the companies mentioned.

    Although one source that was not mentioned was Roy Sebag’s report here:
    http://www.visualcapitalist.com/portfolio/global-gold-mines-and-deposits-ranking-2012

    Cheers,
    Jeff

  16. [...] the presentation is here. The Visual Capitalist has uploaded a relevant presentation on the topic here. And the Break Away Digger has an interesting piece available here. These documents come with a [...]

  17. Vanessa F. says:

    Yeah…Thank you for your excellent grafic!….all…what you have to know about gold in one sheet! great.

  18. Goudkoers says:

    Jeff, those numbers are significant. Can we see some updates or similar inforgraphs related to trend of price of silver and titanium. Gold is overated rated few months ago but now seems to see some deep lows. Most of the major gold or jewelers stores stopped selling gold in large amounts due to drop in gold price.

  19. Goudkoers says:

    Some sources even say that countries(like Dubai and some African countries which import and store gold ) which store Gold as their major properties stopped releasing them to the outer world due to the drop in the price and are we going to see worst scenarios here ?

  20. John Delano says:

    Help- I do not understand how the price of gold should be in direct relation to the consumer price index which is 3-to-1. Ref: “The golden constant-1970′s Roy Jastram ” [university of California, Berkley.

    Gold is at $1,200 is priced at a 8-to-1 relationship?

    For gold to be equal to the 3-to-1 c.p.i. the price of gold should drop to $780.00 per once.

    I read this and the professor must be a stuffed shirt like the statistics professor I had at Northeastern University when he would say "It's like throwing pearls to swine", when we in the class did not understand what he was saying.

    Can anyone explain this relationship?
    Thanks in advance.
    Originofquake [Discuss]-sunnyday1@optonline.net

    • BigBearShort says:

      Which CPI? The one in China and India, which account for 60% of global gold purchases? Or the one in the United States, which accounts for 4% of global gold purchases??

  21. [...] tose looking for more info about this, our friends at Visual Capitalist put together this infographic on the cost of mining [...]

  22. BL says:

    Bottomline: Avoid the gold miners. If you want to have exposure on gold, buy gold ETF instead.

    Regards
    http://www.tradingeducationprogram.org

  23. [...] tose looking for more info about this, our friends at Visual Capitalist put together this infographic on the cost of mining [...]

  24. Larry says:

    Dear Mr.Delano,

    I think you are missing one point. That rate 3 to 1 is comparison FAIR VALUE of GOLD and CPI.
    What is the FAIR VALUE ??
    An accounting and economics, fair value is a rational and unbiased estimate of the potential market price of a good, service, or asset. It takes into account such objective factors as:
    • acquisition/production/distribution costs, replacement costs, or costs of close substitutes
    • actual utility at a given level of development of social productive capability
    • supply vs. demand
    and subjective factors such as
    • risk characteristics
    • cost of and return on capital
    • individually perceived utility

    Base on this information your calculation is correct, each GOLD of ONS has to be $780.

    But market players creating kind of illusion and like to sell as much as high possible. Same play that which they do in Diamond business.

    Conscious gold investors buy gold close to fair valeu and sale in market price..

    • BigBearShort says:

      Which CPI Larry?

      You are living in Lalaland if you still think that United States economic conditions are determinant in setting the price of gold.

      As far back as the 1980s this was true; in certain years nearly 80% of global gold demand originated in Europe and the United States. Note that Mr. Delano is referring to a study published in 1977!!

      Interestingly, you are not the only one mentally stuck in the paradigm of the 1980s. A vast majority of global commentators seem to have entirely missed that the bull-run in the gold market starting in 2001 was a consequence of the internet enabling outsourcing on a massive scale, fueling nothing less than an industrial revolution in low wage economies. The increased purchasing power of emerging market consumers has enabled them to buy more and more gold. For example, in the third quarter of 2013, the United States and Europe accounted for just 10% of global gold purchases, the reminder of demand coming from so-called “emerging markets”.

      Discussing gold’s relationship to American CPI becomes totally irrelevant when the United States buys less gold than for example Turkey.

      The egocentric illusion of the American public will be its doom.

  25. Roy Cobden says:

    Thanks for sharing your research!

  26. Davis Waldo says:

    Nice to see. I have taken similar approach to Pt economics, assuming that all capex is operating expense (if not growing production it is just a normal annual expense). On this basis AmPlats (35% of world production) 2012 cash cost per ounce of Pt (assuming byproduct credits for Pd and all other products) was approx. 1800 USD/toz. With the 15% decline in rand since 2012, the rand denominated costs such as labor and electricity, comprising about 65% of variable costs, have dropped cash cost to about 1625 $/oz. But upcoming labor negotiations will restore that figure to above 1800 $/oz.
    I would be interested in other’s analysis of same.

  27. Peter says:

    I am of the opinion that the price of gold is highly manipulated and is not connected directly to the mining cost. Price of gold is dictated by greed of those who have it and fear of those who don’t. Imagine for a minute what will happen if we stop producing new gold. What will change? The world will manage to get by with the existing amount of gold. We don’t really waste much gold, no need to renew. The point is all the gold mines may become obsolete one day if they price themselves out. Long term investing in gold mines is questionable. And it takes a long time for new mines to start producing. Why would we take such a gamble?

    • BigBearShort says:

      Price of gold manipulated?

      It is highly possible. In a paper market where no physical delivery is required, one can simultaneously buy and sell gold. E.g. if I am the government (or a large bank or a hedge fund) and I want to keep the price down, I open two (or more) accounts and I trade between these at times when the market is highly illiquid (e.g. when I can easily sell to myself without interference).

      This type of manipulation is often seen attempted in the stock market, where it it has to be done repeatedly to drive the price movement for a stock (for this reason, stock exchanges are monitoring the counter-parties for trades using sophisticated algorithms, so don’t try this at home…). In the market for gold, it only needs to be done from time to time, as stop-losses and margin calls on leveraged positions will escalate a downward (or upward) move.

      However, it is key to note that it only works when the market is illiquid (you need fill your buy order simultaneously with your sell order in order to avoid losses). This may explain why the recent sell off in gold was initiated with a large sell order placed at the point in time when market liquidity was at its lowest (the worst possible timing for a profit maximizing seller), triggering the first leg down in the gold decline to $1321/ oz in May this year.

      Nevertheless, unless the manipulation in the paper market is successful in amending the price expectations players of the physical market, it is doomed to be short-lived. The corresponding dynamic will be that demand for physical gold will explode (and yes, we have certainly seen that happening), eventually creating a gap between those contracts that allow for physical delivery and those that don’t.

      I tend to believe that the April price move was not government manipulation, but rather a large hedge fund (most likely close to Goldman Sachs) who had figured out where most of the stops in the market were, and saw the opportunity to profit from a short-position by pushing the market lower. It has subsequently succeeded in scaring the lights out of retail investors, who are liquidating their ETF holdings, and changing the American and European market sentiment for gold.

      At least for now.

  28. [...] ‘recently said that gold was headed to $1,000 (U.S.) an ounce by 2015’. The infographic below by Visual Capitalists analyzes the costs of gold mining for the world’s top 50 producing mines and looks [...]

  29. Peter says:

    THINK ABOUT IT:

    Obama’s evidence, i.e., the youtube videos of the supposed sarin attack, are obviously faked.

    It is so damn obvious (as various websites have pointed out).

    Suppose there is a strike that spreads sarin nerve gas over a wide enough area to kill 1400 people, then one has a cloud of sarin nerve gas covering a reasonably large area.

    If you breath in (even a small amount of) sarin nerve gas you will begin to die within one minute and you will be dead in the time it takes to suffocate (about six minutes).

    So those who videoed the dying, had to do so within about seven minutes of the strike occurring.

    That is, they had to enter a large cloud of sarin nerve gas in order to take their videos.

    How did they survive? By magic, apparently.

    Clearly, OBAMA’S VIDEOS ARE FAKED.

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  1. The Cost Of Mining Gold: A 101, And A Critique – GoldReport

    [...] the presentation is here. The Visual Capitalist has uploaded a relevant presentation on the topic here. And the Break Away Digger has an interesting piece available here. These documents come with a [...]

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    [...] ‘recently said that gold was headed to $1,000 (U.S.) an ounce by 2015’. The infographic below by Visual Capitalists analyzes the costs of gold mining for the world’s top 50 producing mines and looks [...]

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