South African production: important but no longer globally significant

Goldhub blog

South African production: important but no longer globally significant

Krishan Gopaul
Market Intelligence Group
World Gold Council

Posted:

I’ve recently seen several headlines highlighting the fall of a mining giant. South Africa, for so long the dominant source of gold for the market, is now no longer Africa’s premier producing nation. That title now goes to Ghana. But how globally significant is this? Well, not very I would argue; that is, it doesn’t signal anything new in terms of global gold supply and market dynamics.

South African gold output has been declining for several decades now. From a peak of around 1,000t in 1970, the nation’s gold output fell to 130t in 2018. A combination of closure, maturing assets and industrial strife has created an inhospitable operating environment. Even the leading gold miners headquartered in South Africa are now focusing elsewhere. (Although, according to the US Geological Survey, the country still has 6,000 tonnes of gold reserves.)1

But all this reminds me of a chart we published almost a decade ago (see below).2  While the decline of South African production has been a feature of the gold market for several decades, so has the emergence of new sources of gold. Geographically-speaking, gold mine production is more diversified that ever. (Not much has changed since 2010 in terms of gold production’s geographic split.) And this is a key strength of the gold market. Given the global spread of gold mining, supply to the market is less susceptible to regional shocks and therefore far more stable than in some other metals. The top six gold producing nations only account for 45% of global gold production (compared to platinum, for example, which sources 98% of its new supply from the top five producing nations).345  

 

What has this meant for global production levels? Well, despite South Africa no longer producing several hundred tonnes of gold each year, global gold production has been increasing. In fact, it has hit record levels in the last couple of years.6  Stable or increasing production – due to higher gold prices and a very diverse set of projects developed over the last decade – has more than offset the loss from South Africa.

South Africa no longer being Africa’s top gold producer might be a symbolic milestone, but it isn’t as significant when it comes to global gold production levels in 2019.

Find our latest mine production statistics here.

Read our latest Gold Demand Trends report.

 

[1] prd-wret.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/assets/palladium/production/s3fs-public/atoms/files/mcs-2019-gold.pdf
[2] www.gold.org/goldhub/research/evolving-structure-gold-demand-and-supply
[3] The top six gold producing countries in 2018 were: China, Australia, Russia, United States, Canada and Peru
[4] The top five platinum producing countries in 2018 were: South Africa, Russia, Zimbabwe, Canada and United States
[5] Metals Focus Gold Focus 2019
[6] www.gold.org/goldhub/research/gold-demand-trends/gold-demand-trends-full-year-2018/supply