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China reclaims status as world’s top gold producer


China has surpassed Australia to recoup its position as the world’s top gold producing country at the end of the September quarter.

Australia had produced more gold than China in the first half of 2021, with 157 tonnes of gold compared with China’s 153 tonnes.

This came as Australia increased its production by 12 per cent from the March to June quarter, owing to new and existing operations increasing their output.

However, China is back on top, with a total of 236.75 tonnes of gold produced for the first nine months of 2021 compared to Australia’s 234 tonnes across the same period.

Australia’s gold production reduced from 83 tonnes to 77 tonnes quarter-on-quarter.

Surbiton Associates director Sandra Close said that while China had reclaimed its prized mantle, it remained a close race as to who will be top gold producer by 2021’s end.

“It is a close-run thing as to which country will be the world’s top gold producer for the whole of 2021. China has been number one since 2007 but Australia is now challenging for that spot,” she said.

“Much will depend on gold output reported for the final quarter of the year. For some 30 years we have been compiling the most detailed gold survey for Australia and know that the December quarter is usually the strongest period of the year locally but we do not know what the relative performance will be for both countries.”

Close said that production at some of Australia’s largest gold operations was hindered by operational factors.

The need to replace a semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) mill motor saw Newcrest Mining’s Cadia operation in New South Wales incur a decline of approximately 2.7 tonnes of gold production for the September quarter.

Newmont Corporation’s Boddington mine in Western Australia produced approximately 30,000 ounces less, or almost one tonne, in the September quarter.

This was put down to severe weather and operational factors such as shovel reliability and delays in the introduction of the autonomous haulage system for Newmont’s fleet of Caterpillar haul trucks.

Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville mine in Victoria incurred lower ore grades in the September quarter, reducing its gold production by approximately 23,000 ounces, or around 0.7 tonnes of gold.

Despite this, Capricorn Metals’ Karlawinda gold operation in Western Australia, which poured first gold in June, increased production by approximately 22,000 ounces for the September quarter.

Gold Fields’ Granny Smith in WA also boosted its output by approximately 15,000 ounces across the three months.

“Most Australian gold producers are still enjoying healthy profit margins,” Close said. “As is always the case, the US dollar:Australian dollar exchange rate has been an important factor, with the Australian dollar gold price remaining above $2400 per ounce since mid-year.

“The outlook is positive, with several projects currently under construction and a healthy number of scoping and feasibility studies underway. As well, exploration and drilling activity remains high in the gold sector overall and initial public offerings and share issues are being well supported.”

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