Figure of the month: 54,000 t

News Arnulf Hinkel – 01.09.2016

According to the U.S. Geological Survey 2014 roughly 54,000 tonnes of mineable gold are still waiting to see the light of day. At first, this figure may sound impressive but compared to the already extracted amount of gold of more than 177,000 tonnes, as stated by the World Gold Council in 2014, it is obvious how very rare this precious metal really is. Moreover, since no new significant gold deposits have been discovered since 2012, mining opportunities could be exhausted 17 years from now, according to the Financial Information Service SNL: a scenario that is likely to cause worry among gold mine operators while at the same time reassuring gold investors. With no danger of a gold oversupply in the future they need not fear a depreciation of their investments.

However, we must not forget that all these figures are based on rough estimates, i.e. they may be influenced by numerous factors. Besides the unlikely but still possible discovery of new gold deposits in the future, technical innovations might allow for the recovery of the precious metal from already known gold deposits – for example, in seawater – which would not be economically feasible with today's technological standards. The mining methods currently in use have – partly – already been used in ancient times, such as gold panning or the mercury process. Regarding larger gold deposits, the process of gold cyanidation has been in use since the end of the 19th century. The most environmentally friendly extraction process, the mercury-free gravity-borax method, is also very old. A much more modern way to extract gold is a method to process anode-sludge, in which gold is extracted from the waste of the refining of other metals such as copper. But even if the double or triple amount of the estimated 54,000 tonnes of gold could be produced in the next centuries, this would not change anything regarding the rarity of this precious metal.

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