Gold is one of the rarest elements in the world, making up roughly 0.003 parts per million of the earth’s crust. But how much gold is the world digging up each year and what countries produce the most?

In 2018, global gold mine production was a reported 3,332 tonnes. This figure is up 2 percent from the previous year and is the largest year-over-year growth in the last four years, according to the GFMS Gold Survey 2019. The driving forces behind increase in production came out of operations in Argentina, the U.S., Russia and Mali.

Although production was up in 2018, versus a small decrease of 5 tonnes in 2017, it raises the question I’ve explored recently – have we reached peak gold? The idea is that all the easy gold has already been discovered and explorers have to dig deeper to find economically viable deposits. For example, South Africa was once the top gold-producing country by far, digging up over 1,000 tonnes in 1970, but annual output has fallen steadily since. On the other hand, several nations have emerged in the last few years as growing gold producers.

global gold production rose 2 percent in 2018
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As seen in the chart below, China takes the number one spot of global gold producers by a wide margin, extracting 87 tonnes more than second place Australia. The top 10 rankings remained unchanged from 2017 to 2018, with the exception of Indonesia and Peru switching between sixth and seventh place, respectively. Of the top producers, Indonesia posted the largest annual gain, boosting output by 23 percent.

top 10 gold producing countries in 2018
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Below are more details on the top 10 countries with the largest gold production in 2018, beginning with the top producer and top consumer of bullion, China.

1. China – 399.7 tonnes

For many years China has been the top producing nation, accounting for 12 percent of global mine production. However, this is 6 percent lower than 2017 and marks the fourth consecutive year of declines. The downtrend is largely due to tighter environmental policies imposed by the government. For example, stricter control over the use of cyanide at gold mines forced several operations to cut back production.