Gold as a precious metal has been mined for more than 6,000 years. The GFMS (Gold Fields Mineral Services) estimates that 12,780 tonnes of gold were extracted until the year 1492 (the year Columbus set sea). But until now, the year 2020, people disagree on how many ounces of gold there is in the world.
The World Gold Council, for example, estimates that the total amount of gold that’s been mined is 165,000 metric tonnes. Thompson Reuters says it’s more like 171,300 tonnes. But many disagree, with some saying the total is actually just 297 tonnes – and others saying it’s more like 2.5 million tonnes!
If the World Gold Council and Thompson Reuters are correct, then all the gold in the world could fit in a cube of 20 metres. Gold is an incredibly dense material, which means that when it’s packed in it doesn’t take up much space. Tim Urban, from the content website Wait but Why, compares the amount of gold that’s been mined to a human and the Egyptian pyramids:
Can all the gold in the world fit in a swimming pool? Not quite, but it could all fit into something like the Wimbledon Centre Court! Pretty impressive, isn’t it? But as we mentioned before, this isn’t completely certain. China does not publish the amount of gold it mines, and a lot of illegal gold mining happens in countries like Colombia. This handy little image from the World Gold Council tells us the different types of gold that make up all the gold in the world.
Maybe we’ve mined around 150,000 tonnes of gold. So how much is left in the Earth? The answer is also a little uncertain. That’s because there are two main ways we estimate the amount of gold left on Earth:
Total gold reserves below ground estimate that there are around 54,000 tonnes left. Based on those figures, we’ve got 20% of our current gold holdings left in the ground. That’s not that much!
However, it’s true that as technology develops we’ll likely be able to extract more reserves and mine more gold. With tools such as robots and smart data mining, certain gold expeditions will become cheaper and cheaper. For example, did you know there’s gold on the moon? At the moment, the price of going to the moon and back far supersedes the profit of selling gold, so it’s not really happening at the moment. But we could start with difficult to access places such as Antartica where conditions make it a lot harder to access and mine gold.
Most of the gold we currently use is recycled – yes, that means the gold chain you own could have been used by Marcus Aurelius! Having said that, more gold is now used in technology than ever (12%!), which means we are consuming gold and therefore demand is increasing.
What about gold resources? Apparently, the sea contains more than 20 million tonnes of gold. However, the average litre of water only contains 13 billions of a gold gram, which means we’d need hundreds of thousands of litres of seawater just to get a bullion bar of gold. This is what we mean by resources: research and investigation would need to be done to extract the gold. Discoveries of large gold deposits are becoming even rarer, so current production mostly comes from older mines. Of those mining production, 60% are on the surface, while the rest is underground – more and more resources need to be dedicated to finding gold.
How much gold is mined each year? Every year, we mine 2,500 to 2,000 tonnes of gold, and the largest miners are China, Canada, Russia and Peru. The largest source of gold is in Witwatersrand in South Africa, a location that accounts for 30% of all the gold ever mined!
Mining operations were paused throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in order to keep workers safe from the virus. This did affect the gold supply chain and decreased supply – just when demand was increasing and more people want to buy gold! Operations have now resumed as restrictions have eased.
The main thing to take away from this is that gold is rare, indestructible and isn’t the easiest metal to mine. It’s a precious metal that’s been with us for centuries and is an integral part of our culture. Buying and holding gold is one of the best ways to save and invest in your and your children’s future.
In August of 2020, gold hit a record high of $2,000 per ounce. The price of gold increases with inflation which means you’ll be able to buy the same things tomorrow that you can buy today, with the same amount of gold.
As a gold investor, you can remain certain that you’re investing in a metal that will always be in high demand. And at Minted, we’ve made it incredibly easy to get started with buying gold: it’s affordable, convenient and you can start with just £30 per month!