Gold Production by Country
When talking about gold production, we are primarily talking about gold mining; which country has the highest output of gold ore from their mines. This output is specifically within the home nation, and not including investments in foreign nations through a multinational corporation.
Many of these countries will have their own authorised and accredited refineries or mints to produce a range of bullion or doré (gold/silver mix) bars and coins for resale. This could be to national banks to form part of a nation’s precious metal reserves, or it could be to the wider public market, but this isn’t considered part of their overall gold production.
The world's largest gold mine - the Grasberg Mine in Papua, Indonesia. Photo courtesy of Richard Jones & Flickr (Creative Commons license).
Top 10 Gold Producing Countries
The following rankings for the top 10 gold producers are based on data published by the combined efforts of Metals Focus and the World Gold Council in April 2017. This data is issued on an annual basis, usually shortly after the beginning of the new financial year. Amendments will be made to this page as and when new mining data becomes available.
10) INDONESIA – 114.2 tonnes
Indonesia is home to the world’s largest gold mine – the Grasberg Mine. By coincidence, it is also the world’s second-largest copper mine. The site is responsible for half of all Indonesia’s gold produced.
Indonesia’s gold output rose in 2017 from 109 tonnes produced in 2016, but this is still below the 2010 figure of 134.6 tonnes. Output has previously been hindered by the Free Papua movement; a liberation or independence group which seeks Papua – an eastern province in Indonesia – to be free from ties to Indonesia like its next door neighbours, Papua New Guinea.
9) MEXICO – 122.4 tonnes
Mexico is better known for its silver mining, but it has a long history of producing gold, stretching back over 500 years. Output in 2017 was down on the 2016 level of 128.4 tonnes of gold, but Mexico’s future has potential – IF the country can curtail gang-related problems. Precious metal miners in the region have been subject to armed robberies and kidnappings, amongst other threats and challenges, but with modern mining technology opening up new avenues of wealth for the country, Mexico might find it cannot afford to miss out on expanding its mining operations.
8) GHANA – 130.1 tonnes
Ghana is famously part of the Gold Coast region of Africa. Gold mining in the early 1990s accounted for over 20% of the world’s supply.
The British knew about the gold-rich environment in Western Africa long before this, and with their colonial exploitation they mined nearby Guinea for vast quantities of gold ore.
Figures from 2017 for gold output are slightly down on 2016’s 131.4 tonnes, but the latest rise in gold prices should help Ghana’s gold industry pick up the pace once more.
7) SOUTH AFRICA – 156.9 tonnes
South Africa is one of the most notable gold mining nations in the world. The country boasts the world’s largest resource in the Witwatersrand Basin, but in the past decade it has been surpassed by several nations for output. At one time, South Africa was responsible for 15% of the world’s gold. That figure is now just 4.2% of the global total.
Gold makes up a huge part of the economy, but political and economic uncertainty have played their part in stalling South Africa’s gold industry, and despite the best efforts of the Minerals Council, South Africa is still struggling. Output of gold was down in 2017 from 162.8 tonnes in 2016.
The Rand Refinery is South Africa’s best-known gold refiner, and the site – formerly a Royal Mint location – operated just outside the capital of Johannesburg, producing gold bullion coins primarily.
6) PERU – 166.6 tonnes
Peru is an unusual country. It has reliable precious metal reserves but unfortunately, due to its elevation, it is difficult to get machinery to the necessary sites but also to get the staff to the area. Even then, the altitude of some locations brings about difficulties with a lack of oxygen and subsequent fatigue.
Economically, Peru’s economy has been improving slightly over the past two or three years, which ties in with the very fractional increase in gold production; up from 166 tonnes in 2016.
5) CANADA – 171.2 tonnes
Canada is famous for dairy farming, timber, and mining, and the latter of these three is going from strength to strength. In 2014 the country caught up with South Africa for gold production, and a year later it was ahead. Canada reported 163.1 tonnes of gold in 2016 and added another 8.1 tonnes in 2017.
Investors and collectors will probably best know Canada for its production of Maple coins. These are available in gold, silver, and platinum, and are produced at the Canadian Mint’s headquarters in Ottawa.
4) UNITED STATES – 210 tonnes
The US Government was the first of the top 10 gold producing countries to publish its data for 2018. US gold output was up from 229.1 tonnes in 2016 to 243.6 tonnes in 2017, so the figure of 210 tonnes is down quite sharply – back to 2014 levels. It is believed that the weak US Dollar hurt the spending power of mining companies in the first half of 2018, though some damage was mitigated with the Dollar strengthening as the year went on.
As of 2014/2015, the US had three of the top 10 largest gold mines in the world – Carlin, Goldstrike, and Cortez, and these are still significant mining sites today.
3) RUSSIA – 272.3 tonnes
Russia’s position is not surprising, given the country accounts for around 15% of the world’s total mineral production, though the country has been in the news more for its near-monopoly on palladium (and the subsequent short-supply price bubble) rather than its gold output.
There are many gold mines operational across the world’s largest country, and with President Putin’s goal of replacing the nation’s reserves with gold rather than US Dollar, growing the gold mining sector is a no-brainer for the Russian premier.
Gold output was up in 2017 from a total of 253.2 tonnes in 2016.
2) AUSTRALIA – 289 tonnes
Australia is a gold-rich island. The British took advantage of this and established Royal Mint branches in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, and the latter is now the official bullion refiner for the whole of Australia – reporting to the regional government of Western Australia.
Gold output rose slightly between 2016 and 2017 – up from 287.7 tonnes – but the country could experience a sharper increase in gold production when the 2018 data is revealed, coinciding with rising gold prices.
The Largest Producer of Gold
And the number one spot as the world’s largest producer of gold goes to…
1) CHINA – 429.4 tonnes
China is both the world’s largest producer of gold and the world’s largest consumer of gold, though considering it is the most populated country in the world it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that it wins on the gold demand front.
China overtook South Africa as the world’s largest producer of gold in 2007 and hasn’t been surpassed since. China’s gold production in 2017 was significantly down on its 2016 figure of 463.7 tonnes, and the lowest level of output since 2012’s figure of 413.3 tonnes. Some will argue that China's dominance is due to involvement in gold mines in nations like Tanzania and Ghana, and that their gold output is being counted directly as Chinese.
Like Russia, China's disputes with the United States of America (most notably the trade war) have seen economic turbulence. The country is looking to switch from US Dollar- backed reserves, and China has begun to add to its national gold reserves since December 2018 – after two years of not buying and almost two decades of giving little to no information on the nation’s gold reserves.
This turbulence - and the global economic slowdown throughout 2018 - could be considered the main reason for China's gold output also losing pace, but with gold prices perking up at the end of last year and into 2019, appetite could well see demand for gold (and subsequently output) climb.
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