How Much Gold is in the World?

by | Feb 8, 2021

We all agree that gold is a beautiful, valuable material. Gold ore is extracted from the earth in a nearly pure form. This makes gold different, as most metals need processing to be purified. This shiny metal is a deep shade of yellow and can be mixed with metal alloys to create other colors. Archeologists and scientists are unsure of exactly when humans started mining gold, but we know that the oldest gold artifacts on record are at least 7,000 years old. Since our first discovery of gold veins, we have not stopped mining or searching for this beautiful metal. It was the discovery of gold, in fact, that spurred the growth of the United States, from the Appalachian mountains to California. People love gold so much that entire wars have been fought over finding and accumulating more of it.

Considering our long relationship with gold, it is more than reasonable to ask a few questions: How much gold is in the world? How much gold is left for us to mine? Will the gold run out? If so, when? Here we will strive to answer these questions, as well as what is arguably the most practically important question of them all: When is it the right time to find a gold IRA partner?

How Much Gold Has Been Mined?

We cannot be sure exactly how much gold has been extracted from the earth since humans began to mine it. According to experts, our best estimate is that there are between 190,000 and 200,000 tons of gold above ground. About two-thirds of that gold has been mined since the 1950s, while the first third had been mined throughout the thousands of years of preceding history. Gold is nearly indestructible, despite being a soft metal. We can therefore be reasonably assured that we have not lost most of the gold that we have mined. That being said, a portion of our total amount of gold is “disappearing.”

Where is the Gold?

Nearly half of the above-ground gold is in our rings, necklaces, bracelets, and other pieces of jewelry. However, gold becomes hard to track once it is used in jewelry, so our numbers on how much gold is in jewelry may be off. Approximately a fifth of the world’s gold is tied up in private investments. The rest is split between official holdings and miscellaneous projects. The majority of the gold in official holdings is underneath London. The miscellaneous group includes technological and scientific projects that use gold. As technology improves, we continue to find more fields in which gold is particularly useful, from space exploration to nanotechnology to environmental management. The malleability and longevity of gold lend themselves incredibly well to such projects. Yet it is in these fields where gold “disappears.” The amounts of gold used in scientific applications are so small that they cannot be retrieved or recycled. In other cases, the gold used in our everyday electronics is simply discarded with a device when we decide we are done with it.

In addition to figuring out how much gold there is in the world, we can make reasonable inferences about which countries own the most gold. It may come as no surprise that the United States owns more gold than any other country: over 8,000 tons. The two countries with the next highest amounts of gold—Germany, and Italy—each have less than half of that amount. Interestingly, of these three countries, only the United States is a significant producer of gold.

Where Are the Current Mines?

a gold mining factory in south africa

Only a handful of countries produce the majority of the world’s gold. The largest supplier is in South Africa, specifically the Witwatersrand Basin mine. Nearly half of all above-ground gold has come from this one mine. Other major suppliers of gold include China, Australia, Indonesia, the US, Canada, Russia, and Peru. Despite this seemingly large number, the amount of gold pulled from mines has tapered off, and in some cases even declined, over the last several years.

Though a few new gold veins have been discovered in recent years, finding one is increasingly rare in the 21st century. There are two gold mines scheduled to open in Nevada: one in 2021 and the other sometime after 2025. Another mine in Canada began producing gold in late 2020. These mines are extracting some of the last veins of gold to which we have access.

How Much Gold is Left to Mine?

Experts have estimated that we have less than 55,000 tons of gold left to discover. Even so, we cannot be sure how much of this amount is extractable. We know that the earth’s crust is gold in a proportion of about four parts per billion. We also know that gold can be found and extracted from the ocean, which is believed to contain about 10,000 tons of gold. Even the continent of Antarctica is known to have large deposits of gold buried deep within the ice.

It is technically possible to extract gold from other elements. As such options become more technologically refined, we may never truly run out of gold. As things currently stand, we know that not all of the gold that exists in the Earth’s crust is in large enough portions to be found and mined. Extracting gold from the ocean, for instance, is not cost-effective, and the deposits we know of in Antarctica are trapped by ice and guarded by extreme weather conditions, making them dangerous and expensive to reach. Extracting gold from other elements is also incredibly expensive, but more than that, the process results in gold that is too radioactive for safe use by humans. With these options ruled out, our only hope is to find new underground reserves of gold.

Will We Discover More Underground Veins of Gold?

Between 1950 and 2000, we discovered many large veins of gold. It was not uncommon to discover a vein with millions of ounces of minable gold. Since then, discoveries have all but come to a halt. Current gold production comes from old discoveries of large veins, not from finding new veins. We may find large deposits if we search in countries that have not yet been examined with a fine-tooth comb. Some mining companies are turning their attention to doing just that in the hopes of striking it big. Experts assure us that there are certainly some large deposits left to discover, though these deposits are most likely deep under the surface. In short, while there technically are still gold deposits left for us to find, most of these are impossible to mine with current technology.

When Will the Gold Run Out?

We are already seeing a decline in gold production as well as discoveries of gold veins. Still, we cannot be certain exactly when we will no longer be able to mine more gold. Some say we may run out of gold to mine by 2035, while others put that date closer to 2070. The end of gold mining will depend heavily on whether or not we find more deposits of gold. Another possibility that may push back the end is breakthroughs in technology that would allow us to safely and effectively extract gold from uncommon sources. That dream, however hopeful, is not likely to come true anytime soon.

The good news is that the end of gold mining will not be the end of gold. Gold, unlike other metals, is nearly indestructible. It does not rust, corrode, or break the same way other metals are known to. This is because gold does not oxidize. As a result, we can recycle the gold that we already have. That being said, we are increasingly using gold in ways that cannot be recycled. Gold in electronic devices, for example, cannot be recycled. Efforts are well underway to recycle the gold used in electronic devices. Unfortunately, these efforts have not yet provided any fruitful results. It’s quite possible that none of the gold that has been thrown away in broken electronics may ever be recovered.

When is the Right Time to Find a Gold IRA Partner?

man running to invest

Whether it occurs in two decades or five, the end of lucrative gold mining is coming. When the end of gold mining reaches us, gold will only become more valuable. What does all of this mean in financial terms? The answer is quite simple: The time to find a gold IRA partner is now. The value of gold will only increase as the supply dwindles. Don’t wait until it’s too late to invest! Contact us right away to get matched with an IRA partner.

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