Top 10 biggest gold mines
The iconic Grasberg mine in Indonesia regained the crown as the world’s biggest gold mining operation in terms of output in 2018.
The copper-gold mine in the remote West Papua region delivered as a by-product just shy of 2.7m troy ounces of gold last year – 73% more than in 2017 and the most production since 2009.
That places Grasberg well ahead of long-time number one, but it won’t top the rankings again any time soon.
Mined since the 1970s by US-based Freeport McMoran, the Grasberg mining complex is transitioning to an underground operation with planned return to full production set for 2022.
This year production could be almost 2 million ounces lower – first quarter 2019 output was only 162koz compared to 673koz during first three months of last year.
Majority ownership of Grasberg, which last year produced just under 557kt of copper, placing it in the top three, will be transferred to the Indonesian government under a deal inked in September after many years of wrangling.
Rio Tinto offloaded its production participation agreement to state-owned Inalum for $3.8 billion. Details of Freeport’s divestment of its 90% shareholding to give Inalum 51% of the mine and the extension of its operating contract to 2014 are currently being negotiated with Jakarta.
During previous talks the value of Freeport’s stake was the number one issue of contention. No doubt it’s the same now.
Here’s the 2018 ranking using MINING.com’s sister company Mining Intelligence data and company reports compiled by senior analyst Vladimir Basov:
Freeport McMoRan’s Grasberg copper-gold complex in the Indonesian province of Papua produced nearly 2.7 million ounces of gold in 2018. The original deposit was discovered in 1936 by a Dutch geologist who called it Ertsberg or “ore mountain”. The mine, which provides work for 30,000 people, is located 4,100m above sea level near Puncak Jaya, the highest mountain in Papua. Production of gold hit a peak in 2001 above 3.5m ounces.
The Muruntau mining complex, located in Uzbekistan and consisting of open-pit mine and heap leach operations, is estimated to have produced about 2.4 million ounces of gold in 2018. Operated by state-owned Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Combinat, the mine is more than 3.3km long, 2.5km wide nearly 600m deep. Considering the stunning resource base, estimated in excess of 150m ounces, Muruntau will likely regain and keep its ranking as world’s biggest gold mine.
The Goldstrike gold mining complex is in Eureka County in north-eastern Nevada and forms part of the newly-created Barrick-Newmont JV in the US state. The mine consists of both open pit and underground operations. It is located on the Carlin Trend, a prolific gold – since Barrick acquired Goldstrike in 1986 it has produced 42m ounces of gold. In 2018, Goldstrike (which includes output from the Cortez mine) produced just under 2.1 million ounces of gold.
Located in one of Russia’s most prolific gold mining provinces, Olimpiada is Polyus’ largest operation. The mine began production in 1996 and currently accounts for over a half the Moscow-based company’s total gold output. The ore mined at the site is processed at three plants with a combined capacity of 13 million tonnes of ore annually. Olimpiada produced over 1.3 million ounces of gold in 2018, a 12% increase over the prior year.
Newcrest’s Lihir operation on Aniolam Island in the New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea is 900 kilometres north-east of the capital Port Moresby. The gold deposit at Lihir is within the Luise Caldera, an extinct volcanic crater that is geothermally active. The Lihir mine produced 976,000 ounces of gold in 2018, a 6% improvement over 2017.
6. Pueblo Viejo
The Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic is about 100 km northwest of the capital city of Santo Domingo. The mine is operated by the Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corporation — a joint venture between Barrick (60%) and Newmont Goldcorp (40%) The Pueblo Viejo mine produced 969,000 ounces of gold in 2018, losing its status as a 1moz+ annual producer.
Newmont Goldcorp’s four mine sites in Nevada include integrated operations at Carlin, located west of the city of Elko on the geologic feature known as the Carlin Trend. Stretching 56km (35mi), the Carlin Trend was first prospected by Newmont geologists John Livermore and Alan Coope in 1965. Carlin produced 927,000 ounces of gold in 2018, down nearly 5% year on year.
Kibali mine in Democratic Republic of Congo is situated adjacent to the town of Doko and 210km from Arua on the Ugandan border. Kibali is co-owned by AngloGold Ashanti (45%), Barrick Gold Corporation (45%) following its merger with Randgold Resources, and Société Minière de Kilo-Moto (SOKIMO) (10%), a state-owned gold mining company. Kibali produced 807,000 ounces of gold in 2018, a 35% jump over 2017.
9. Cadia East
Cadia Valley operation in New South Wales was Australia’s top producing mine last year, dethroning Newmont Goldcorp’s Boddington operation in Western Australia and helping to push the storied Kalgoorlie Super Pit out of the top 10. Cadia East underground panel cave mine commenced commercial production in January 2013. Cadia East mine in the Cadia valley produced 752,000 ounces of gold in 2018, a stunning 52% more than last year.
Newmont Goldcorp’s Boddington mine is located within the Saddleback greenstone belt in Western Australia. Boddington is located 120 km southeast of Perth. Boddington was a three-way joint venture between Newmont Goldcorp, AngloGold Ashanti and Newcrest. In 2009, Newmont Goldcorp purchased AngloGold Ashanti’s shares to become the sole owner. Boddington produced 709,000 ounces of gold in 2018, a 10% year on year decline.
Based on publicly disclosed information only the Canadian Malartic mine in Quebec would’ve made the top 10 both last year and in 2017. Malartic is a partnership by Yamana Gold and Agnico Eagle, which acquired the mine from Osisko in 2014. Launched in 2005, the development of the mine was completed in just six years. Canadian Malartic produced 697,000 ounces in 2018, 10% more than the year before..
The Super Pit as it is known is some 600km east of Perth has produced 50 million ounces over 30 years and fully developed the cut will be 3.6km long, 1.6km wide and up to 650m deep. A 50-50 JV between Barrick and Newmont Goldcorp, Kalgoorlie fell out of the top ten last year with a 17% drop in output to 628,000 ounces.
The Veladero mine is located in the San Juan Province of Argentina, immediately to the south of the Barrick’s suspended Pascua-Lama project. Barrick sold half of Veladero to China’s Shandong Gold in 2017 for $960m. Production declined 13% to 556,000 ounces last year after peaking in 2010 at more than 1m ounces per year.
Source: Mining Intelligence – senior analyst Vladimir Basov