How Much Gold is Left in the World?

The price of gold reached all-time highs this year amid the coronavirus crisis. However, as investors continue to turn to precious metals to hedge against uncertain times, it begs the question: will the supply of gold eventually run out?

It’s easy to assume that there must be plenty of gold in the world, as mankind has been successfully mining gold for centuries. In my mind, this meant that the world has had a very long time to build a very extensive collection of gold. Turns out this may not actually be correct.

How much gold has been mined?

There is a reason why gold is so precious and valuable, and that is due to its rarity. Mining companies estimate the total amount of gold that has been mined so far is around only 190,000 tonnes, though estimates do vary slightly, and around two-thirds of this is said to have been mined since 1950. Surprisingly, if every single ounce of already mined gold were bundled together into a cube, each side would only measure around 21 metres.

So, what has this gold been used for?

Around 47% of gold has been used to produce jewellery. Private investment purposes are second on the list, with around 21% currently being used for this purpose. Official government holdings make up around 17%, and lastly around 14% is used for other various purposes in industry, such as medicine and machinery.

Peak gold

Gold may be in high demand for investment and industry, but we must remember that gold is a finite resource and will eventually run out. Experts talk about the concept of ‘peak gold’, which is defined as the point at which we have mined the highest amount we ever can in one year. Some believe we may have already reached, or even surpassed, that point.

How much gold is left to be mined?

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, discoveries of gold able to be mined were quite common. However, over the past couple of decades, new discoveries of large deposits of gold have slowed right down. Most gold production today comes from older mines, as it seems there may not be many large undiscovered veins of gold left in the world.

Some already known reserves are also known to be impossible or uneconomical to access, such as those in Antarctica, due to challenges faced by extreme weather conditions and thick ice layers. There are also large gold deposits deep beneath the surface of the earth that are impossible to extract.

The US Geological survey estimates that the volume of below-ground stock of gold reserves is to be around 50,000 tonnes. In comparison, the total amount of gold that has been mined is estimated to be around 190,000 tonnes. Based on these figures, there looks to be only about 20% still to be mined.

Mine production of gold appears to be on a downward trajectory, and the depletion of mines could well affect the price of gold as demand rises and supply stagnates. It is also pretty much impossible to estimate how long current reserves will last.

However, it’s worth remembering that our old friend gold, unlike other non-renewable sources such as oil, can be recycled. Jewellery and bullion are often melted down and re-used. Efforts to recycle gold extracted from electronics are also already underway. So, will we ever truly run out?

This blog represents one person’s opinion only. Customers should conduct their own research and take advice before making an investment. We do not offer investment advice.