... is the nation’s 6th largest export earner ... earned $14 billion of export revenue in 2014-15 ... is the 2nd largest producer of gold in the world

Production and resources

Gold mine production in Australia was 272 tonnes in 2014-15, according to the Department of Industry and Science. This is a slight decline as compared with 2013-14 (274 tonnes), and more than 11% below the historic high of 306 tonnes recorded in 1997-98.

Chart 1: Australia's gold production

Source: Department of Industry and Science

Gold is mined in all Australian states and the Northern Territory. Western Australia accounts for almost 69% of Australia’s gold production, followed by New South Wales (12%), Queensland (6%) and Northern Territory (5%). Gold is the primary output of about 70 operations in Australia with many drawing resources from two or more deposits. Several mines also produce gold as a by-product of processing other commodities such as in polymetallic base metal deposits at Rosebery (Tasmania) and Olympic Dam and Prominent Hill (South Australia).

In 2014, Australia accounted for 9.4% of global gold production, down from 11.5% in 2000. China has become the world’s largest gold producer over the past decade, more than doubling its share of global production from 7.8% in 2003 to 15.7% in 2014.

Chart 2: Global gold production

Source: United States Geological Survey (USGS)

Australia’s reserves of gold were 9,800 tonnes in 2014 according to United States Geological Survey estimates, the highest of any country and almost 18% of global reserves. The next largest gold EDR were in South Africa (about 6,000 tonnes), followed by Russia (about 5,000 tonnes).

Around 70% of Australia’s total reserves are contained in just 15 deposits, with more than 50% of total EDR in the four largest deposits – Olympic Dam in South Australia, Cadia East in New South Wales and Boddington and Telfer in Western Australia. About 42% of Australia’s EDR comprise Proven and Probable Ore Reserves as defined under the Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) Code.

Chart 3: Gold economic resources

Source: United States Geological Survey (USGS)

On current production rates, the resource life of Australia’s gold resources is approximately 36 years. Whereas Australia’s share of global gold production has fallen over the past decade, Australia’s share of global gold reserves has continued to grow.

Chart 4: Australia's share of gold production and reserves

Source: Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE), United States Geological Survey (USGS)

This extends a trend begun in the mid-1970s with a clear increase in the rate of growth since 1983. The introduction of carbon-based processing technology which allowed the profitable processing of relatively low grade ore deposits has been a central driver of this growth, together with increased exploration.

Chart 5: Australia’s gold resource life

Source: Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE), United States Geological Survey (USGS)