Gold’s beauty, shine, and value led to innumerable gold rushes across the globe since the 1800s.
From electronic devices like your home computer, fashionable jewelry, coins and bars, gold continues to be used in many everyday items. Where is it found? The answer: All over the world! Today most gold is mined from the Earth’s rock. The mining process itself is long and tedious. It does not happen overnight and realistically can take 10-20 years for a mine to be functional, ready to produce the gold for a refinery.
Gold Mining Production
Along with the process of gold mining being lengthy, it is also immensely expensive. The first stage in the hunt for gold involves discovering it. Searching for signs of gold deposits and examining the characteristics of surface rocks begins the discovery phase. The next step is deciding on a mine type, planning, and preparing to mine the rock. Last, the extraction takes place, removing the metal from the rock and sending it off to a refinery to be molded into the gold products known today.
Depending on where the gold is located, a mining type is selected. There are four main types of mining:
- Open-cut, or surface mines
- Underground mines
- Placer mines
- In-situ mines
Each type of mine is unique based on where the deposits are located. Let’s review the four types in more detail to understand how they differ.
Other names for open-cut mines include surface mines and open-pit mines. They deliver less valuable gold, removing it from the grounds and leaving the ground unfilled. These mines are shallow compared to underground mines.
Underground mines are the most expensive, but they reach gold at deep levels. Three methods of underground mining include supported, unsupported, and caving.
Ever want to go panning for gold? Consider visiting a placer mine. No digging is required. Instead, mineral deposits are sifted through with the hope that gold or other elements are discovered. Using the practice of sifting, the purpose is to separate precious metals from the sediments found in waterways that derive from rivers or glaciers.
More predominantly used to mine uranium, in-situ mines do not require the movement of rock. Instead, it involves dissolving the minerals. How? Through wells that inject a solution used to dissolve the rock and then pump the extracted minerals back to the surface. In-situ mines are environmentally friendly, but the geology needs to meet requirements. The location must have a highly porous orebody, be mineable, and be under the water table.
Gold Mining Locations
Gold mining locations are found on land and in the sea. Even Antarctica houses gold. However, Antarctica is off limits due to The Antarctic Treaty. In 1959, the treaty was signed to preserve the land, keeping it off limits and peaceful. This strictly means no mining is allowed.
Let’s take a look at all of the locations gold has been discovered and where it resides today.
Is there gold within the depths of the oceans? The short answer is yes, but how much? That’s hard to determine. Along with other precious metals and resources, the gold sits approximately one to two miles deep on the seafloor, but it is encased in rock. Mining in the ocean is not a common process. It costs a fortune and bears little profit.
China is the fourth largest country in the world. It only makes sense that it is also the world’s leader in gold production. China is also the world’s leading consumer of jewelry, according to the World Gold Council. Seventy-three percent of gold is for consumption. The remaining 27% is for gold bars and gold coins.
What part of China yields the most gold? The Eastern provinces include Shandong, Henan, Fujian, and Liaoning.
South Africa holds the record for gold, with the largest source in history located at the Witwatersand Basin. Mining started there back in 1886 after George Harrison made the discovery. More than one-third of the world’s gold production was discovered at this location. Since it peaked in production in 1970, the discovery of gold at this location has been on a steady decline.
The Witwatersand Basin includes seven major goldfields within a 350 km span.
A famous gold mine found within the Witwatersan Basin in South Africa is the Mponeng Mine or the Western Deep Levels South Shaft. The mine is known as the deepest artificial mine measuring 2.5 miles below the Earth’s surface. Tunnels travel 236 miles within the mine too.
Another mine, the South Deep gold mine, is the seventh deepest gold mine in the world.
A vast majority of gold in Australia cannot be seen in rock. In every ton of rock mined, there are approximately five grams of gold discovered. However, Western Australia proves otherwise.
About 60% of the gold found in Western Australia is found within rock. Ever heard of “Welcome Stranger?” This is the largest gold nugget, found in 1869, weighing 70 kg, or 2,250.55 troy ounces. Succeeding “Welcome Stranger” is “Welcome Nugget,” weighing 68.98kg in 1858.
Producing 6.4 million troy ounces of gold, the United States ranks as the fourth largest gold producer globally. Gold was discovered in the United States in 1799 in the state of North Carolina. In 1848, the industry began to soar. The golden state of California was the next discovery of the majestic gold nuggets leading to the California Gold Rush.
From 1848 to 1855, more than 750,000 pounds of gold were discovered in the state of California. But now, California is ranked number four in the United States.
So, where are the top gold mines in the United States? Nevada. Nevada leads the production of gold in the U.S. Below are several of the top mines in the U.S., ranging from Nevada, Colorado, and Alaska.
Carlin and Goldstrike Mines
The Carlin and Goldstrike mines in 2020 produced 1.665 million troy ounces of gold. Carlin has a total of eight mines, four underground and four open-pit. Goldstrike began operation in 1986. It has one underground and one surface mine.
The Cortez Mine is also known as Gold Rush. The property extends 2,800 kilometers, 1,740 miles.
Round Mountain is owned by a Canadian company called Kinross Gold. It is located in Nye County, Nevada, and has produced 324,000 troy ounces in 2020. The site has its own refinery where the dug-up ore is processed, liquified, and molded into gold bars.
In 1938, Turquoise Ridge was discovered. It sits in Humboldt County, Nevada operating two underground mines. To mine the gold here, the underhand cut-and-fill method is used. In 2020, 537,000 troy ounces of gold were mined from Turquoise Ridge.
Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine
In Teller County, Colorado, a mine known as the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine produced 272,000 troy ounces of gold in 2020 using the heap leaching mining method. In 1890, the mine started as an underground operation. Now, it is an open pit.
Fort Knox Mine
Taking a trip to Alaska, the Fort Knox Mine resides here. Mining is completed year round at this open-mit mine. 2.4 million troy ounces have been produced at the Fort Knox Mine.
How Much Gold Remains Around the World?
Throughout history, nearly 197,576 tonnes of gold have been mined. Locating gold mines is rare. But, in 2021 and 2025, two new gold mines are scheduled to open. Where? In the state of Nevada. Gold continues to be discovered, but the question remains as to if or when it is expected to run out.
Experts announced that there is approximately 55,000 tonnes of gold remaining on Earth. Will it all be extractable and of value? This remains unknown. It’s hard to say when gold will run dry. Estimates range from 2035 through 2070. Time will only tell.
Although new gold may not be found, gold recycling keeps it circulating. Technology breakthroughs also share the wealth, as technology allows us to extract gold from uncommon sources safely and effectively.
The Bottom Line
Almost everywhere you look, gold can be found in some shape or form, such as jewelry, gold bars, gold coins, etc. Its beauty and elegance have enthused the world since ancient times. But is time catching up to us? New gold is discovered less and less each day, but old gold can be transformed into a new form today with technological advancements and recycling efforts.
Have you had interest in investing in gold but couldn’t upfront the cost? Options are available to you at Acre Gold. Visit our webpage today for more information.