The Aztecs were one of the wealthiest and most prosperous people in the Americas. Their wealth was so alluring that shortly after Hernán Cortés of Spain arrived at Veracruz, he immediately knew that he had arrived at the abode of wealth.
For the Aztecs, wealth largely meant feathers from exotic birds and beautiful clothes made from high-quality fabric, especially cotton. They also valued cocoa beans they used as a medium of exchange. But for Cortés and his men, wealth was a much simpler thing: gold. In any form.
The Aztecs couldn’t wrap their heads around why these Spaniards were interested so much in gold. When they asked Cortés about it, he answered,
“I and my companions suffer from a disease of the heart which can be cured only with gold.”
Well, he couldn’t have been more honest.
Gold was the reason why Cortés eventually looted Mexico for its wealth. Gold has been a reason for numerous wars and conquests in history. It has been a major cause of our incessant greed for wealth. Truly, Cortés’s “disease” continues to plague us.
People around the world have been in pursuit of this precious metal against all odds for ages. We have already mined over 205,000 tonnes of gold so far. And another 53,000 tonnes remain underground, waiting to be mined. But did you know that most of the mined gold comes from just three-four countries?
If not, this blog is for you. Keep reading to learn about the top ten gold-producing countries in the world.
Production: 332 tonnes
With 332 tonnes mined in 2021 alone, China stands at the top of our list of the world’s largest gold-producing countries. The nation’s vast underground gold reserves have given the country enough gold to produce and export.
But the country’s production has been decreasing fastly since 2016. From a peak of 463.7 tonnes in 2016, China witnessed a decline of over 28% in 2021. The decrease has largely been due to the government’s strict policies and measures for the mining sector.
Production: 330.9 tonnes
Russia maintains its spot as the second-largest gold producer in 2021, trailing only China. The 331 tonnes account for over 9% of the global gold production. With the 2021 figures, gold production in Russia declined– albeit marginally– for the first time in over ten years. Excluding this year, the country’s production has been rising consistently since 2010.
The country also has the second-largest reserves of gold– around 6,800 tonnes. Clearly, gold is a significant commodity in Russia, and production is likely to increase in the coming years.
If this growth trend continues, Russia might as well soon surpass China as the largest gold-producing nation.
Production: 315.1 tonnes
Australia saw a slight dip in its gold production in 2021. The production has been down 4% since 2020 and 3% since 2019. Nevertheless, with a production of over 300 tonnes, the country is easily the third-largest gold producer.
Moreover, the country also has the largest gold reserves, amounting to around 11 thousand metric tonnes!
Gold is an important export commodity in Australia. It generated a revenue of $23 billion in 2021. The country exports gold to over 55 countries. The largest gold-producing region within the country is Western Australia, which accounts for nearly 70% of the total production.
Production: 192.9 tonnes
Canada secures the fourth spot on this list as gold production rose to 192.9 tonnes in 2021. This is an increase of over 11% from its 2020 production volume. The country has witnessed a steady rise in its gold production capacity since 2010 (when production was 102 tonnes).
Gold is the most valuable mineral in Canada. The provinces of Ontario and Quebec are the largest producers of the valuable metal. Together, these two provinces account for well over 80% of the total gold produced in 2021.
Production: 186.8 tonnes
The United States first entered the gold game in 1799, when gold was first discovered in North Carolina. But it was only much later, in 1848, when the gold rush finally began in the state of California.
With production volumes of nearly 187 tonnes in 2021, the States comes fifth on this list. However, this amount is a decrease of the corresponding values of the previous year. The country produced around 200 tonnes of yellow metal. Nevada and Alaska are the largest gold-producing states in the country.
Production: 129.2 tonnes
The mineral industry of Ghana contributes around 37% to the country’s total exports. And gold accounts for nearly 90% of the total mineral exports.
Due to decreasing gold production from South Africa, Ghana became Africa’s leading gold producer in recent years. But the country’s gold production is also decreasing over the last few years. After reaching a peak of 149 tonnes in 2018, gold production in Ghana has dropped steadily ever since.
Production: 127.3 tonnes
Peru also has a history of European conquest, just like its North American counterpart, Mexico. And even in 2021, the gold-production volume of Peru is similar to the corresponding volume of Mexico.
La Libertad was the largest gold-producing region in the country and constituted around 31% of the total production. The gold- production of Peru is also on a decline for a decade, from 183 tonnes in 2009 to 127.3 tonnes in 2021.
Production: 124.5 tonnes
Hernán Cortés and his Spanish men destroyed the land of the Aztecs. They exploited and took away much of the gold that was available at the time. But there’s so much gold that even after 500 years, Mexico is the eighth largest producer of gold.
Sonora was Mexico’s largest gold-producing state in 2021, producing 29% of the nation’s gold. The state of Zacatecas comes second, accounting for nearly 18% of the 124 tonnes the country produced the same year.
Production: 117.5 tonnes
Accounting for around 3.3% of global gold production in 2021, Indonesia comes ninth among the world’s largest gold-producing countries. Around half of Indonesia’s gold comes from the Grasberg mine– the world’s third-largest mine by production. The mine is also one of the largest copper-producing mines in the world.
Much of the Indonesian gold comes from the mines in Sumatra and West Java. The island nation is one of the world’s leading producers of gold. The country exports most of the gold it produces.
Production: 113.6 tonnes
South Africa is one of the most mineral-rich countries in Africa. The country is rich in not only gold but also in diamonds, platinum, and other important metals such as iron, uranium, and manganese. Therefore, it makes sense for the country to find a place on our list of the world’s largest gold-producing countries.
However, South Africa’s gold reserves have been on a steep decline over the past decade. From 1000 tonnes in 1970, the total gold production decreased to a little over 113 tonnes in 2021. But this is still an increase of about 11% from the production of 2020.
The end of gold?
With so much gold being extracted and mined around the world, the amount of gold in reserves is decreasing. And finding new gold deposits is becoming more and more difficult. As a result, underground gold reserves are depleting at a great rate.
However, that doesn’t mean that we will soon run out of gold. Since the metal is indestructible, it will be around in one form or the other. But there’s a long time before us before that happens.
If you enjoyed reading about world’s largest gold-producing countries, we have many more such blogs waiting for you. Keep coming back to The Countdown List to read interesting blogs around a range of topics.