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Global Gold Mine and Deposit Rankings 2013

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For a second year in a row, we have worked with Roy Sebag of Natural Resource Holdings to produce an in-depth report of all gold deposits hold be public, private, and government backed companies.

— View the full 40 page PDF report. —

Results Discussion

We were able to identify a total of 580 deposits that have over 1,000,000 ounces of gold for a total of 3.72 billion in-situ ounces. The average grade of all deposits is 1.01 g/t Au.

These deposits are owned by 312 entities including public, private, and government sponsored corporations. 261 of the deposits were owned (or partially owned) by independent junior miners.

2013 vs Previous Years

It is our belief that this is by far the most comprehensive report yet. That said, those that compare this report to 2012 will notice significant differences in the final metrics. Most notably:

  • Total deposits over 1 million oz increased from 439 to 580 worldwide.
  • Total ounces have increased from 3.02 billion oz to 3.72 billion oz of Au.
  • Average grade has increased from 0.82 g/t to 1.01 g/t Au.

The chief difference is that this year we decided to include all African deposits and mines, including projects that we believe will never be mined because they did not meet our thresholds of grade or depth. However, by including these projects, which add up to about 350 million oz alone, we believe the report is much more encompassing.

Trends in Size and Grade

The project economics of gold deposits are mostly dependent on two major factors: size and grade. Without a sizeable ore body, a mining operation cannot acquire the economies of scale to bring down the cost of production. Likewise, a project without grade may not have the margins for each ton of ore processed to justify production.

The average grade differed significantly between producing and undeveloped deposits. The average grade of all producing mines is 1.18 g/t Au, which is 32.6% higher than the average of all projects still in the development phase (0.89 g/t Au). This has significant implications on future gold production. In the near term, with significant volatility and the gold price at a three-year low, many of these projects are simply not economically feasible. In the medium to long term, unless major discoveries are made, either gold production must decrease (with a focus on only higher grade deposits) or the price of gold must rise to make these projects economical.

A key take home point of this report each year is the rarity of large, high-grade projects. There are only 51 (8.8%) projects in the world that are more than 5 million oz and have an average grade of higher than 3 g/t Au. Of these, there are only 21 that are not yet in production.

By Geography

While North America shows the largest amount of contained gold, Africa continues to be home to some of the highest grade (and highest risk) projects on the planet.

The highest grade deposits in the world are in countries such as South Africa, Tanzania, DRC, Mali, Russia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, and Papua New Guinea.

The Future of Gold Supply

Our figure for in-situ ounces that we have provided (3.72 billion oz Au) is a comprehensive view of what is below ground in terms of reserves and resources.

However, to come up with a clear picture of what is actually recoverable, the reality is that there are several limitations to the amount of gold that will actually become part of the future supply chain:

  • Economic pit outlines have not yet been applied.
  • Metallurgical recovery rates have not yet been applied.
  • Inferred resources have been included in global contained ounces.
  • Undeveloped deposits with no clear path towards permitting remain included.

To project an accurate figure, we need to take our 3.72 billion oz number and apply some math:

Total in-situ ounces in database:
3,720,865,356 oz

70% of total become mines:
2,604,605,749 oz

70% metallurgical recovery rate:
1,823,224,024 oz

This number, 1.82 billion oz, becomes really interesting when we look at annual extractable supply. Averaged over 50 years, the supply is equal to 1,134 tonnes (36,464,480 oz) of gold per year.

This figure is equal to only 42.0% of the 2,700 tonnes (86,807,016 oz) of worldwide gold production in 2012.

Conclusion

Led by countries such as Russia and China, central banks have recently become net buyers of gold. Meanwhile, ETF gold outflows have been a temporary source of supply this year, but obviously this cannot persist. It’s also unreasonable to assume that recycling will make up a significantly greater piece of supply without the price of gold increasing substantially.

With the grade of current producing gold mines being 32.6% higher than undeveloped deposits, it makes the supply scenario even more clear. Not only is the current yearly mine supply difficult to sustain, but future mines coming online will be challenged by grade and margins to be economical at today’s prices.

Mathematically, unless we have high-grade, high ounce deposits that are being fast tracked online, it will be very difficult to find a way to get supply to match demand.

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Mining

Visualizing the New Era of Gold Mining

This infographic highlights the need for new gold mining projects and shows the next generation of America’s gold deposits.

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The following content is sponsored by NOVAGOLD

Visualizing the New Era of Gold Mining

Between 2011 and 2020, the number of major gold discoveries fell by 70% relative to 2001-2010. 

The lack of discoveries, alongside stagnating gold production, has cast a shadow of doubt on the future of gold supply. 

This infographic sponsored by NOVAGOLD highlights the need for new gold mining projects with a focus on the company’s Donlin Gold project in Alaska.

The Current State of Gold Production

Between 2010 and 2019, gold production increased steadily, though this growth has stagnated over the past few years.

YearGold Production, tonnesYoY % Change
20102,560-
20112,6603.9%
20122,6901.1%
20132,8004.1%
20142,9906.8%
20153,1003.7%
20163,1100.3%
20173,2303.9%
20183,3002.2%
20193,3000.0%
20203,030-8.2%
20213,0902.0%
20223,1000.3%

 Along with a small decrease in gold production in 2020, there were no new major gold discoveries in 2021.

The fall in production and long-term lack of gold discoveries point towards a possible imbalance in gold supply and demand. This calls for the introduction of new gold development projects that can fill the supply-demand gap in the future. 

Sustaining Supply: Gold for the Future

Jurisdictions play an important role when looking for projects that could sustain gold production well into the future.

From political stability to trustworthy legal systems, the characteristics of a jurisdiction can make or break mining projects. Amid ongoing market uncertainty, political turmoil, and resource nationalism, projects in safe jurisdictions offer a better investment opportunity for investors and mining companies. 

Today, 10 of the top 15 mining jurisdictions for investment are located in North America, according to the Fraser Institute report published in 2023. 

A Golden Opportunity

Located in Alaska, one of the world’s safest mining jurisdictions, NOVAGOLD’s 50% owned Donlin Gold project has the highest average grade of gold among major development projects in the Americas. For every tonne of ore, Donlin Gold offers 2.24 grams of gold, which is more than twice the global average grade of 1.04g/t. 

Additionally, Donlin Gold is the second-largest gold-focused development project in the Americas, with over 39 million ounces of gold in M&I resources inclusive of reserves. 

Visual Capitalist Logo

NOVAGOLD is focused on the Donlin Gold project in equal partnership with Barrick Gold.
Learn more about Donlin Gold 
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