Statistics and Information (from U.S.G.S. Mineral Commodity Summaries, 2013):
Gold has been treasured since ancient times for its beauty and permanence. Most of the gold that is fabricated today goes into the manufacture of jewelry. However, because of its superior electrical conductivity and resistance to corrosion and other desirable combinations of physical and chemical properties, gold also emerged in the late 20th century as an essential industrial metal. Gold performs critical functions in computers, communications equipment, spacecraft, jet aircraft engines, and a host of other products. Although gold is important to industry and the arts, it also retains a unique status among all commodities as a long-term store of value. Until recent times, it was considered essentially a monetary metal, and most of the bullion produced each year went into the vaults of government treasuries or central banks.
Events, Trends, and Issues:
Domestic gold mine production in 2012 was estimated to be slightly less than the level of 2011. The decreases were mainly from one mine in Nevada and one mine in Utah. These decreases were partly offset by several mines in Nevada that increased the tonnage of ore processed, and one mine in Montana that reached normal operations level after a period of redevelopment in 2010 and 2011.
Worldwide gold production was flat because increases in production from Canada, China, Ghana, Mali, Mexico, Russia, and Tanzania were offset by production losses in Argentina, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and South Africa. Gold production in China continued to increase, and the country remained the leading gold-producing nation, followed by Australia, the United States, Russia, and South Africa.
Domestic and global jewelry consumption continued to drop because the price of gold continued to increase and a depressed economic environment curtailed consumer spending. In 2012, other industrial applications for gold also dropped as consumers found cheaper substitutes. The estimated gold price in 2012 was 8% higher than the price in 2011. In the first 10 months of 2012, Engelhard’s daily price of gold ranged from a low of $1,543.27 per troy ounce on May 30 to a high of $1,795.45 per troy ounce in early October. The price increased steadily until March, when the price fell through May, before recovering and starting to increase again until October when it started to decline again.
With the increase in the price of gold and the global economic instability that began in 2008, investment in gold continued to increase, as investors seek safe-haven investments. Gold Exchange- Traded Funds (ETFs) have gained popularity with investors. According to some industry analysts, investing in gold in the traditional manner is not as accessible and carries higher costs owing to insurance, storage, and higher markups. The claimed advantage of the ETF is that the investor can purchase gold ETF shares through a stockbroker without being concerned about these problems. Each share represents one-tenth of an ounce of allocated gold.
An assessment of U.S. gold resources indicated 33,000 tons of gold in identified (15,000 tons) and undiscovered (18,000 tons) resources.Nearly one-quarter of the gold in undiscovered resources was estimated to be contained in porphyry copper deposits. The gold resources in the United States, however, are only a small portion of global gold resources.
Base metals clad with gold alloys are widely used in electrical and electronic products, and in jewelry to economize on gold; many of these products are continually redesigned to maintain high-utility standards with lower gold content. Generally, palladium, platinum, and silver may substitute for gold.
*U.S. Geological Survey National Mineral Resource Assessment Team, 2000, 1998 assessment of undiscovered deposits of gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc in the United States: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1178, 21 p.