(BBC) – Last month the price of gold hit a record high, pushing above $2,000 an ounce.
While this price rise was driven by gold traders, it begs the question about the supply of the precious metal and when it will eventually run out.
Gold is in hot demand as a store of wealth, a status symbol and a key component in many electronics.
But it’s also a finite resource and there will eventually come a stage when there is none left to be mined.
Experts talk about the concept of peak gold – when we have mined the most we ever can in any one year. Some believe we may have already reached that point.
Gold mine production totalled 3,531 tonnes in 2019, 1% lower than in 2018, according to the World Gold Council. This is the first annual decline in production since 2008.
“While the growth in mine supply may slow or decline slightly in the coming years as existing reserves are exhausted and new major discoveries become increasingly rare, suggesting that production has peaked may still be a little premature,” said Hannah Brandstaetter, a spokesman for the World Gold Council.
Even when peak gold happens, experts say the years immediately after it are not likely to see a dramatic decrease in production. Instead, we could see a gradual depletion of major of output over a few decades.
“Mine production has flat-lined and is likely on a downward trajectory but not dramatically so,” added Ross Norman of MetalsDaily.com.
So how much is left?
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
Resources – gold that will potentially become economic to mine after further investigation or at a higher price level