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An In-Depth Exploration of the World’s Largest Gold Mines

An In-Depth Exploration of the World’s Largest Gold Mines

Humans have been extracting gold for almost 5,000 years. However, more than half of the total amount of gold mined (World’s Largest Gold Mines) to date has been extracted in the previous 50 years. Gold production has consistently exceeded 3,000 tons per year during the last ten years. It was 3,560.7 tons in 2021, considerably above the record year of 2018, when 3,652.6 tons of the precious metal were mined. China surpassed South Africa as the top gold-producing country in 2007, and has since remained the uncontested global champion in mined gold production, with annual output of up to 400 tons. The belief that China has the most prolific gold mines is, however, incorrect. The world’s top five gold mines are situated abroad.

Grasberg

Grasberg is a huge gold mine located at an extraordinarily high altitude of 4,270 meters above sea level in the Indonesian state of West New Guinea on the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire.” Grasberg even led the list of the world’s most producing gold mines until recently. The open pit and underground mines are operated by the Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold mining group in collaboration with the Indonesian government and the Rio Tinto group, and they predominantly extract copper with gold coming in second. Nonetheless, 26.4 tons of gold were produced at Grasberg in 2020, ranking the mining complex seventh among the highest-yielding gold mines.

In view of the anticipated residual gold reserves in the deposit, the mine will most certainly retain or even enhance its status among the top five in the world for the foreseeable future. Experts think that the deposit, found in 1936 by Dutch geologist Jean-Jacques Dozy, still holds up to 880 tons of mineable gold. The Grasberg mining complex has brought both joy and suffering to Indonesia. While its operator, Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold, is the country’s greatest taxpayer, it is also the country’s top polluter. Copper mining, in particular, emits significant amounts of environmental contaminants that are hazardous to aquatic life, and the corporation does not follow either Indonesian or US environmental standards.

Pueblo Viejo

Professional mining of the Pueblo Viejo gold mine, located approximately 100 kilometers from the Dominican capital Santo Domingo in the province of Sanchez Ramirez, began in 1975. It is considered Latin America’s most producing gold mine. For the first few decades, the open pit mine was operated by the Dominican mining corporation Rosario Dominicana, which closed it in 1999 due to the price pressures of then-weakening gold and silver prices, as well as increasingly challenging extraction circumstances. For 13 years, the gold mine was dormant.

The contract for further development and exploitation of the Pueblo Viejo mine was awarded in 2012 to a joint venture of the world’s two largest gold producers: Canadian mining company Barrick Gold, with 17,500 employees and a market capitalization of €36 billion, and US Company Newmont Goldcorp, with 16,400 employees and a market capitalization of €37.6 billion. Barrick Gold owns 60% of the mine, while GoldCorp owns 40%. The gold output volume in 2020 was 28 tons, rising to 30.6 tons in 2021 — levels that will be unsustainable in the long run. According to Barrick Gold’s 2019 annual report, the mining company estimates a residual resource of little under 186 tonnes of gold financially extractable from the Pueblo Viejo mine.

Olimpiada

The Olimpiada gold mine, located in Krasnoyarsk Krai in Central Siberia, is the most prolific mine of the operator Polyus, by far the largest Russian mining firm, and one of the five largest in the world. The mine recovered 37 tons of gold in 2020 and 43.2 tons in 2021. Three refineries are operating at full capacity to treat the gold produced at Olimpiada, which is recovered entirely by open-cast mining. The operator Polyus now expects a good 1,360 tons of existing gold mineable in the future, making Olimpiada one of the gold mines with the biggest reserves likely to continue in operation for a long period.

Carlin

The Carlin gold mine in Nevada began operations in 1965. The notion of “Carlin-type” gold deposits is called after the mine. The mine uncovered the first significant deposit of this type: sediment-hosted hydrothermal dispersed gold-pyrite impregnation deposits – or, more simply, microscopically tiny deposits in which the precious metal particles are trapped in carbonate rock, popularly known as “invisible gold.” This kind of deposit is mostly found in Nevada and Utah, and the term “Carlin-type” was quickly extended to other gold mines in the area. The original Carlin gold mine produced 51 tons of gold in 2020 and just 49.2 tons in 2021.

It is approximately 2,000 by 500 meters and is operated both open pit and underground. After more than 50 years of active mining, the Carlin mine reserves are estimated to be around 120 tons by owner Newport Mining Company. Even if the original Carlin mine closes in the near future, gold mining in the vicinity will continue uninterrupted across multiple Carlin-type mines. To that purpose, the two mining companies Newport Mining Company and Barrick Gold formed a joint venture in 2019, with Barrick Gold maintaining a 61.5 percent stake. The Nevada Gold Complex formed by the joint venture contains the original Carlin gold mine as well as two Carlin-type mines, “Goldstrike” and “Cortez.”

Muruntau (World’s Largest Gold Mines)

The Muruntau gold mine, which was established in 1967, is located about 300 kilometers west of Tashkent in the gravel and sand desert of Kysylkum, Uzbekistan. It took nine years from the discovery of the gold reserves in 1958 to the commencement of mining, which has continued uninterrupted ever since. The open-pit Muruntau mine’s size are startling at first glance: The extraction crater is 3,500 x 2,500 meters in diameter and 600 meters deep. This remarkable expanse is owing to the nature of the gold deposits, which are predominantly dense accumulations of quartz rock, known as veins.

The Muruntau mine produced more than 51 tons in 2010, increasing to more than 62 tons by 2020 and 82 tonnes by 2021. The anticipated remaining minable gold reserves as of the beginning of 2022 are roughly 4,000 tons, which could keep the Muruntau mine atop the list of the world’s most prolific gold mines for the foreseeable future. These values are based on data from the state-owned operator, Navoi Mining & Metallurgy Kombinat. In the past, the Uzbek government was not exactly forthcoming with information on the mine’s residual gold resources.

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