AUSTRALIA has cemented its position as the world’s second-biggest gold producer behind China in 2010, confirming there is also a golden tinge to the iron ore and coal-led resources boom.
A survey by Melbourne-based consultancy Surbiton Associates found output by the local industry climbed 17 per cent or 38 tonnes to 266 tonnes (8.5 million ounces) in 2010, worth $11.76 billion at the current spot price for the yellow metal.
Surbiton said the production effort was the highest annual output since 2003 and placed Australia second to the top producer China (341 tonnes) and ahead of the United States (240 tonnes).
Production from the former leading producer, South Africa, has been on the skids for decades. It produced more than 1000 tonnes of gold in 1970 but output in 2010 is expected to be about 200 tonnes.
The Surbiton survey found that Australian production held up in the December quarter despite some operations being affected by bad weather. Output in the final December quarter was 70 tonnes.
December quarter output was up 3 per cent or 2 tonnes on the 2010 September quarter and 12 per cent or 7 tonnes higher than in the previous corresponding period.
Newmont Mining’s redeveloped Boddington mine, south-east of Perth, became the country’s biggest goldmine in the December quarter.
But Boddington is nevertheless falling short of the 1 million ounce-plus annual rate that Newmont had planned.
Surbiton director Sandra Close said that despite the resurgent gold production (Australia once produced gold at an annual rate of more than 320 tonnes), there was no room for complacency. “Continued exploration is essential to ensure the long-term viability of the industry,” Dr Close said.