In August 2002, the price of gold pushed past the US$2,000 an ounce mark. As an investment product, it is in hot demand. As production steps up, the question that has surfaced is whether it will reach the stage where there is no more gold left to mine.
Mining companies estimate the volume of gold that remains in the ground in two ways:-
Reserves – gold that is economic to mine at the current gold price
According to the World Gold Council, around 197,576 tonnes of gold have been mined throughout history. Each year, global gold mining adds approximately 2,500-3,000 tonnes to the overall above-ground stock. Below ground reserves is estimated at 54,000 tonnes.
As it is virtually indestructible, nearly all of the gold ever mined is theoretically still accessible in one form or another and potentially available for recycling.
Mine production has plateaued and is likely on a downward trend. Most gold today comes from older mines that have been in operation for decades. New ones are still discovered but the unearthing of large deposits are rare.
Another reason why gold will not run out for some time yet is that a huge amount of gold is used in electronics products such as mobile devices, computers and electronic gadgets. And when these equipment become e-waste, many precious metals including gold are retrieved using toxic chemicals.
Even for the gold mining industry, notwithstanding the call by governments, trade associations, jewellers and non-governmental organisations to practise ethical and sustainable mining, a large amount of chemicals especially cyanide and mercury are used in the industry.
Is it possible to have gold extracted from mines or e-waste without using these toxic chemicals?
Clean Mining’s (part of Clean Earth Technologies) clean gold technology replaces traditional cyanide-based metallurgical processes with an organic alternative using a non-flammable, water-soluble reagent. The reagent can be recycled and, when used in conjunction with de-watering system, the eco-friendly process produces dry waste potentially eliminating the need for potentially volatile and high risk tailings dams.