These countries are winning at gold mining

These countries are winning the gold mining game

Source: GFMS Thomson Reuters

The third quarter gold survey by GFMS Thomson Reuters calculate global primary gold production rose 2% in the first half of the year to 1,507 tonnes.

Most of the growth too place in Asia and where production across the region grew by double digits.

That was thanks to increased production in top gold mining country China, which added nearly 10 tonnes for first half production of just under 219 tonnes. China's many state-owned gold mines overtook South Africa in 2007 as the world's top gold producer, a position it has held since.

Indonesia grew output a full 28% or 14.5 tonnes to more than 66 tonnes in the first half. Smaller producing countries in Central Asia made even greater strides with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolian production showing strong gains.

A better performance by Kyrgyzstan's Kumtor mine, majority owned by Canada's Centerra Gold and a rise in Mongolia of byproduct output from the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine saw output in both countries jump some 50%. A $5 billion underground extension where 80% of Oyu Tolgoi's resources are located should see Mongolia enter the top 20 producing countries in the near future.

Colombia enters the ranking at number 20. GFMS estimates the number of registered artisanal miners, or barequeros, inside the country now tops 100,000 and production should keep rising from the 21.6 tonnes achieved in the first half boosted by a new free trade zone.

Despite efforts to bring small-scale miners into the mainstream through certification and training illicit mining remains a problem in Colombia and more so in neighbour Venezuela. Venezuelan gold production is expected to reach 23 tonnes in 2015, with the vast majority coming from illegal mining in the state of Bolivar according to GFMS.

Peru, the world's number 5 gold producer also shows strong growth with six-month output rising 7% to 86.7 tonnes while Argentina managed to up output by 15%.

Canada overtook South Africa to become the world's sixth largest gold producer after increasing output for seven years in a row to more than 150 tonnes on an annual basis. On a tonne for tonne basis the US was one of the biggest losers with production declining 4% to below 100 tonnes due to falling grades at Barrick Gold's Cortez mine in Nevada and the suspension of the Hollister operation. The US is the world's fourth largest producer of gold behind Russia and Australia.

The greatest declines in Africa and globally came from South Africa and Ghana. South African output fell by an estimated 14% to 70 tonnes in the first half of 2015. The country was the number one gold mining country for more than a century and during its peak in the 1960s and 1970s accounted for as much as 80% of total global output, surpassing 1,000 tonnes in good years.

Production was affected by safety stoppages across many South African operations during the period while in Ghana, power shortages and the cessation of underground mining at Obuasi hit output which was down 9% or five tonnes for the six months according to GFMS research.

Overall output in Africa was down 2% with a 31% rise in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where Randgold Resources Kibali mine is ramping up and commercial production of Otjikoto in Namibia failing to offset the losses at the continent's top producers.

These countries are winning the gold mining game

Tolima gold mask from Gold Museum in Bogota, Colombia