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.
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.
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:
70% of total become mines:
70% metallurgical recovery rate:
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.
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.
The Periodic Table of Endangered Elements
90 different elements form the building blocks for everything on Earth. Some are being used up, and soon could be endangered.
The Periodic Table of Endangered Elements
The building blocks for everything on Earth are made from 90 different naturally occurring elements.
This visualization made by the European Chemical Society (EuChemS), shows a periodic table of these 90 different elements, highlighting which ones are in abundance and which ones are in serious threat as of 2021.
On the graphic, the area of each element relates to its number of atoms on a logarithmic scale. The color-coding shows whether there’s enough of each element, or whether the element is becoming scarce, based on current consumption levels.
|C||Carbon||Plentiful supply / serious threat|
While these elements don’t technically run out and instead transform (except for helium, which rises and escapes from Earth’s atmosphere), some are being used up exceptionally fast, to the point where they may soon become extremely scarce.
One element worth pointing out on the graphic is carbon, which is three different colors: green, red, and dark gray.
- Green, because carbon is in abundance (to a fault) in the form of carbon dioxide
- Red, because it will soon cause a number of cataphoric problems if consumption habits don’t change
- Gray because carbon-based fuels often come from conflict countries
For more elements-related content, check out our channel dedicated to raw materials and the megatrends that drive them, VC Elements.
Mapped: The 10 Largest Gold Mines in the World, by Production
Gold mining companies produced over 3,500 tonnes of gold in 2021. Where in the world are the largest gold mines?
The 10 Largest Gold Mines in the World, by Production
Gold mining is a global business, with hundreds of mining companies digging for the precious metal in dozens of countries.
But where exactly are the largest gold mines in the world?
The above infographic uses data compiled from S&P Global Market Intelligence and company reports to map the top 10 gold-producing mines in 2021.
Editor’s Note: The article uses publicly available global production data from the World Gold Council to calculate the production share of each mine. The percentages slightly differ from those calculated by S&P.
The Top Gold Mines in 2021
The 10 largest gold mines are located across nine different countries in North America, Oceania, Africa, and Asia.
Together, they accounted for around 13 million ounces or 12% of global gold production in 2021.
|Rank||Mine||Location||Production (ounces)||% of global production|
|#1||Nevada Gold Mines||🇺🇸 U.S.||3,311,000||2.9%|
|#5||Pueblo Viejo||🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||814,000||0.7%|
|#6||Kibali||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the Congo||812,000||0.7%|
|#8||Lihir||🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||737,082||0.6%|
|#9||Canadian Malartic||🇨🇦 Canada||714,784||0.6%|
Share of global gold production is based on 3,561 tonnes (114.5 million troy ounces) of 2021 production as per the World Gold Council.
In 2019, the world’s two largest gold miners—Barrick Gold and Newmont Corporation—announced a historic joint venture combining their operations in Nevada. The resulting joint corporation, Nevada Gold Mines, is now the world’s largest gold mining complex with six mines churning out over 3.3 million ounces annually.
Uzbekistan’s state-owned Muruntau mine, one of the world’s deepest open-pit operations, produced just under 3 million ounces, making it the second-largest gold mine. Muruntau represents over 80% of Uzbekistan’s overall gold production.
Only two other mines—Grasberg and Olimpiada—produced more than 1 million ounces of gold in 2021. Grasberg is not only the third-largest gold mine but also one of the largest copper mines in the world. Olimpiada, owned by Russian gold mining giant Polyus, holds around 26 million ounces of gold reserves.
Polyus was also recently crowned the biggest miner in terms of gold reserves globally, holding over 104 million ounces of proven and probable gold between all deposits.
How Profitable is Gold Mining?
The price of gold is up by around 50% since 2016, and it’s hovering near the all-time high of $2,000/oz.
That’s good news for gold miners, who achieved record-high profit margins in 2020. For every ounce of gold produced in 2020, gold miners pocketed $828 on average, significantly higher than the previous high of $666/oz set in 2011.
With inflation rates hitting decade-highs in several countries, gold mining could be a sector to watch, especially given gold’s status as a traditional inflation hedge.
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