With the economy in crisis, gold is viewed as an increasingly solid investment. Even in a slowing economy, gold prices improved 31% between 2007 and 2008, and reached prices in excess of $900 per ounce. It is still seen as a very safe investment compared to other commodities and the market as a whole. But have you ever wondered where you can find the largest reserves of this precious metal that is propping up the world’s economies?
Biggest Gold Mines
For the past century, gold mining has been dominated – in terms of production – by North America, Europe and South Africa. During this time, the mines were owned and run almost exclusively by private enterprises from these countries, and operations expanded into other regions as demand increased. Today, there are over 192 gold-producing countries.
The highest yields come mostly from Asia and Australia, and the largest of the world's mines now include the Grasberg Mine in Papua, Indonesia and the Super Pit in New South Wales, Australia.
Grasberg mine – Indonesia (source)
Super Pit in Australia (source)
As of 2007, China is now officially the world’s largest producing country. At 276 metric tons (roughly 9.7 million ounces) per annum, China now produces over 10% of the world’s total gold production. It’s safe to say that China now experiencing its “gold rush”, which many of the western countries experienced during the nineteenth century. In fact, China has surpassed South Africa, which led the world in gold production from 1905 to 2007 to become the largest gold producing country in the world.
There have been some other noteworthy discoveries elsewhere in the world, such as the Great Mongolian Gold Rush of 2001 and the Apui Gold Rush in Brazil in 2006, but China is at the forefront of the discovery of new gold deposits. In 2007 alone, discoveries of 162 tons and 122 tons were found in remote areas, and with China’s expansive land mass this trend is only expected to continue.
Biggest Gold Reserves
With regards to reserves, however, currently most of the world’s gold is still heavily concentrated in the hands of the world’s wealthiest nations. Nearly two-thirds of all the world’s reserves are held by the United States and the European Union (With Germany as the principal reserves-holder) at 27% and 37% respectively. Translated in monetary terms, this means that the US holds approximately $241 Billion in gold reserves, most of which is still the trusty Civil War era Fort Knox.
Due to the recent high demand of gold, many small-scale farmers have entered the gold mining industry in an attempt to strike it rich, or at the very least support their families. There is an estimated 20 million small-scale miners around the world, with approximately 100 million people directly dependent on this type of artisanal mining. Many of these miners are from Africa, where recent discoveries have led many in recent years to begin pursuing this relatively untapped region (besides the aforementioned South Africa). For the most part this includes Africans from many of the poorer countries that are able to mine on tribal lands, alongside larger mining conglomerates to which many countries are now leasing their land.
Largest Gold Rush in US History
The Largest Gold Rush in US History was the California Gold Rush of 1848 to 1852, which saw the westward migration of 300,000 men, women and children vying for the opportunity to strike it rich. This was the largest gold rush of its kind, and still is the benchmark by which gold discoveries elsewhere in the world are measured. News of the California gold rush stimulated interest and consequent prospecting elsewhere in the world. This eventually led to the gold rushes in Australia, South Africa, Canada and in Western Europe.
Largest Gold Nugget Ever Found
The largest gold nugget ever recorded, was discovered by John Deason and Richard Oates in 1869, During the height of the Australian gold rush. Found in Moliagul, Victoria, Deason and Oates named the nugget “Welcome Stranger.” This huge nugget weighed in at a whopping 71kg, and fetched at the time, about £9,300.
The Largest Gold Deposits in the World:
Since the South African Gold Rush (1896-) nearly 40% of the gold mined in the world came from the Witwatersrand basin in South Africa. According to a 2002 article by National Geographic, scientists estimate that one-third of the world's un-mined gold resources remain in this region.
The Most Expensive Gold Coin
In 2002, the one of the world’s rarest collector coins sold for the sum of $7.6 Million. The coin, the 1933 Double Eagle, was one of the last of its kind before the big gold meltdown in the US. After being in the hands of Egyptian royalty, it found it’s way back to New York years later.
It was gold’s perceived scarcity that originally lead to its worth. But even with the world’s central banks stockpiling gold at a record pace, and the mining conglomerates coming up with ever more creative ways to find it, this remains one investing strategy truly worth its weight.