The 70 protons and 118 neutrons possessed by a gold atom make it one of the higher atomic number elements naturally occurring. As well as being a rare and precious metal, it is also challenging to produce. Gold's inability to rust or corrode, as well as being one of the least reactive chemical metals make it a fantastic material for conducting electricity.
Even though gold is not actively used in common currency, it does provide a level of stability for countries that hold it. This is because economic shocks or political changes cannot impact it.
How much gold has been mined?
Calculating how much gold has been mined throughout history is a difficult feat. However, approximations have been made that around 190,040 tonnes have been mined.
In 2018, 3,332 tonnes of gold was mined globally; a 2% increase year on year.
How much gold is in the world?
Above ground, 186,700 tonnes of gold exists, as recorded in 2015. There are an estimated 54,000 tonnes of gold reserves below ground, accounting to less than 30% of the gold already mined.
It is believed that four parts per billion of the earth’s crust consist of gold. Unfortunately, it is difficult to calculate a precise number.
Inaccurate recording of gold reserves, as well as difficulties involved in tracking gold used as jewellery, makes it hard to quantify the world's gold supply.
Gold mined by country
In 2018, China mined the most gold at 404 tonnes. Kazakhstan produced the least amount of gold at 68 tonnes, with 1,000 tonnes in reserve.
The total gold production throughout the globe in 2018 equated to 3,505 tonnes, with 54,000 tonnes in reserve.
China has maintained its status as the top producing nation, which accounts for approximately 12% of the world’s mine production.
Australia has seen gold production increase for the last six years. The minerals industry equates to more than half of the country’s total exports, generating approximately 8% GDP.
83% of Europe’s gold stems from Russia, which has seen an increase in production yearly since 2010. 2018 saw a gold output of around 2% from Russia.
2018 saw America’s gold output increase by 10%, the fifth year the country has seen a rise in production. 78% of the gold produced in the United States came from Nevada.
Seventeen tonnes more gold was produced year on year in 2018 after a goldfield was uncovered in 2017; which is estimated to hold 780 metric tonnes of gold. We may well see gold production continue to increase in the coming years.
Mining equates to 28% of Peru’s total output, making it significant to their economy. However, 2018 saw gold output drop for the third year.
Indonesia recorded the highest production increase in 2018. This 23% increase stemmed largely from one pit. The mining industry was impacted negatively when Indonesia restructured the country’s taxation and environmental policies.
As Africa’s second-largest producer of gold, Ghana is known for its industrial mineral reserves.
Apart from an increase in 2013, there has been a steady decline in gold produced by South Africa over the years. Multiple mines have had to close due to a lack of profitability.
Although Mexico landed in the tenth position in 2018, output has increased by 79.2 tonnes over nine-years; up to 2017.
South Africa currently holds ninth position in gold mined, although the country historically held the number one position of highest gold production until 2006. This is due to a steady fall in gold output. However, the country still holds second place when it comes to most gold owned.
The future of gold mining
There are finite amounts of gold in the earth. Goldman Sachs stated in 2015 that the planet holds approximately 20 years' of 'known mineable' reserves of diamonds, gold and zinc. While some countries have seen a steady decline in gold output, others have increased.
Records have shown a peak in gold production mined worldwide on four occasions since 1990, with each peak higher than the previous recording. There are differing opinions on when the all-time gold peak will hit. Some of these predictions have already passed, whereas, in 2012, the CEO of Natural Resource Holdings predicted that gold would peak at some point between 2022 and 2025.