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What is the total amount of gold ever mined?


There’s an interesting feature from the BBC about the total supply of gold in the world.  This is not idle speculation done for amusement; it actually matters to those who advocate pegging currencies to gold as they used to be.  I read some time ago that all of the gold ever mined in history would come about one-third of the way up the Washington monument.  The BBC story seems to bear this out.  It quotes estimates which suggest that the world’s gold would all fit into a cube with sides of about 67 feet.  Thomson Reuters GFMS, which produces an annual gold survey, whose latest figure for all the gold in the world is 171,300 tonnes.  This corresponds to our cube, or a block nearly 32ft 2in above ground if it covered Wimbledon’s centre court.

It isn’t a great deal to use as the world’s currency, and there’s a new problem.  Gold has historically been recycled, melted down from one use into another.  Now however, it is used in tiny amounts in technology goods, and may not be economically recoverable.  The British Geological Survey estimates that 12 percent of gold production is now used like this, and for the first time in history we might actually be using up gold.  The US Geological Survey estimates there are perhaps 52,000 tonnes of recoverable gold in the ground waiting to be mined.  If ever we do use up significant amounts, we’ll need to find ways of finding more.  And at that point asteroid mining might step up to the plate…


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