What were the leading gold mines, in terms of annual output, during 2016? This question was recently answered by The Motley Fool, and what’s fascinating about the list is understanding which big gold miners or state governments operate each of these projects.
Based in Alexandria, VA, The Motley Fool is perhaps the longest-running investment news website/newsletter anywhere on the web. It was founded in 1993. Fittingly, its interest in the data relates to how the major gold miners involved benefit from these projects.
Shrouded in Secrecy
Before getting into what companies are at the top, it’s interesting that the list is topped by a nation-state (Uzbekistan) rather than a private enterprise. That is, this is probably the case. The precise gold output of the Muruntau mine in Uzbekistan, which is operated by the government, is a guarded state secret! However, estimates place its yearly output at 2.15 million ounces each of the last three years.
Muruntau is the largest open-pit mine in the world in terms of area, although there are four open-pit operations that actually descend deeper. The Motley Fool was fairly confident in placing Muruntau #1 on its list considering that the estimated production is more than double the output of the second-highest gold mine on the list! This, of course, does cast some doubt about the reliability of this estimate.
Barrick Gold (ABX) runs the Cortez gold mine in Nevada, which cracked the list at #5. The mine boasts an annual output of between 1.25 million and 1.3 million ounces of gold, as well as 10.2 million oz of what are called proven-and-probable gold reserves. Meanwhile, the Goldstrike project up the road actually ranks as the #3 gold mine on the list. Goldstrike is also located in Nevada—and also owned by Barrick. It likewise produced over 1 million oz of gold last year.
Goldstrike is projected to see somewhere between 910,000 and 950,000 ounces in output this year, and is still sitting on over 8 million oz in proven-and-probable reserves. Though it may not continue to exceed the million-ounce production mark each year, it is expected to improve its efficiency and cut costs through a partnership between Barrick and the IT firm Cisco Systems. Through data analytics and other digital services, the companies hope to lower the all-in sustaining costs (AISC) for both the Goldstrike and Cortez projects.
The Grasberg Mine in Indonesia, run jointly by the state and U.S. miner Freeport-McMoRan (FCX), has the largest known gold deposits in the world. A giant open-pit project, it might rank as one of the marvels of the industrial world.
Accordingly, this prodigious mine faces persistent problems between Freeport and the Indonesian government. The dispute centers around certain concentrates and unrefined output from the mine that the government wants to refine in-house, allowing it to capture the profits from a value-added product rather than being forced to sell a raw commodity. This ongoing conflict has caused periodic and lengthy delays in production from Grasberg, though the three-mine complex still produced more than 1 million ounces of gold in 2016.
Surprisingly, the small Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic is home to the world’s #2 gold mine, Pueblo Viejo, which is jointly owned by Goldcorp (GG) and—surprise!—Barrick Gold.
You can find more information about these mines in the original article here.
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