How much gold has been mined?
The best estimates currently available suggest that around 183,600 tonnes of gold have been mined throughout history, of which around two-thirds has been mined since 1950. And since gold is virtually indestructible, this means that almost all of this metal is still around in one form or another. If every single ounce of this gold were placed next to each other, the resulting cube of pure gold would only measure around 21 metres on each side.
Each year, global mining adds approximately 2,500-3,000 tonnes to the overall above-ground stock of gold. While gold production has shown an upward trend in recent years, this is likely to level off in coming years.
Below-ground stocks – gold yet to be mined – are currently estimated to be around 56,000 tonnes by the US Geological Survey. Accurately estimating the amount of gold still within the ground is no easy task, and this estimate may change in response to several factors, such as:
- the price of gold
- the cost of mining inputs (which effect whether gold deposits are economic to mine)
- exploration and new discoveries
- prior geological survey coverage and capabilities
Mining companies will estimate how much gold remains at each mining project they operate. These can be split into two categories: reserves (gold that is economic to mine at the prevailing gold price); and resources (gold that will potentially be economic to mine, subject to further investigation or at a difference price level).