People usually come across gold in the form of jewelry and admire it for its beauty, value, and permanence.
But before gold makes it into jewelry and vaults, it goes through a long and difficult production process that begins with mining.
The price of gold broke an all-time high of $2,000/oz in 2020, giving miners a brief boost to profitability. However, mine shutdowns due to the pandemic ultimately dented global gold production relative to 2019.
The above infographic breaks down gold production by country in 2020, highlighting the biggest nations for gold mining.
Although gold mining is a global business, just three countries—China, Australia, and Russia—accounted for 31% of global gold production in 2020.
China topped the list partly due to the resumption of gold mining activities after pandemic-induced lockdowns. Furthermore, China accounted for 30% of global demand for gold jewelry in 2020, offering miners an additional incentive for production.
The U.S. produced 190 tonnes of gold in 2020, the majority of which came from mines in Nevada. Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold mining company, produced roughly 85 tonnes or 45% of U.S. gold in 2020.
Indonesia ranks seventh in the list partly due to the Grasberg Mine, one of the world’s largest gold mines, which has produced over 1,500 tonnes or 53 million ounces of gold since 1990.
In total, miners produced 3,241 tonnes of gold in 2020, a 3% drop from the 3,300 tonnes mined in 2019. This also brings the total above-ground stocks of gold to around 201,296 tonnes, which are distributed between jewelry, investments, and central bank holdings.
Gold derives part of its value from scarcity. So how much gold is left in the world?
According to the World Gold Council, the latest year-end estimate of underground gold reserves adds up to 50,000 tonnes. Of these, Australia and Russia collectively host around 35% or 17,500 tonnes.
At current production rates, these gold reserves will last less than 16 years. However, 2020 also saw $2.9 billion flow into gold exploration and development projects, which might one day add to the world’s gold reserves in the future.
(This article first appeared in the Visual Capitalist Elements)