The first gold coins were created in 550 BC. Since then, the world has not stopped seeking and finding new ways to utilize this commodity.
But, the world’s gold reserves are not unlimited. So, how much gold is there in the world?
Today, estimates of how much gold there is in the world range from 170,000 metric tons (or 155,244 tonnes) to 2.75 million metric tons (or 2.5 million tonnes).
But no one knows exactly how much gold is left on the earth or has been mined so far.
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How Much Gold is in The World?
Estimates of how much gold there is in the world range from 170,000 tons to 2.75 million tons. But, most scientists err on the side of caution and have suggested figures around the 200,000-tonne range.
Gold has been mined for over 6,000 years and has become an important part of contemporary society. This is true even now after the United States abandoned the gold standard in 1971.
Gold is used in a few key ways in today’s society. As you’re undoubtedly aware, it’s been used in jewelry and coins for centuries, even thousands of years.
Today the value of gold has only increased as it plays a role in dentistry and other parts of the medical field. Radioactive gold is used in various treatments, and many medical devices include it in some way.
It’s also found in the circuitry of aerospace projects and as a lubricant between parts. One of the most important ways people utilize gold today is in electronics like cell phones, calculators, GPS units, and other small devices.
Its inclusion in these small electronics is minuscule, but it’s enough to where, as these devices are thrown away, the earth’s supply of gold is decreasing for the first time in human history.
How Much Gold Has Been Mined?
Today, experts agree that around 200,000 tonnes have been mined in the history of gold mining. But, this is mostly speculation.
It’s nearly impossible to find an exact number as the history of gold mining stretches back nearly 6,000 years. Most historians agree that due to gold’s strength and near indestructibility, some of the gold circulating today was mined centuries ago.
Gold mining exists on every continent on earth except for Antarctica. It is mined through a process divided into four steps – prospecting, mining, extracting, and refining.
It’s extracted legally and illegally on all sorts of scales. As an industry, gold mining is only growing. Production levels peaked around 2018 when around 3,300 tonnes of gold were mined.
Buying and selling gold is also a very profitable industry. Its value is measured in troy ounces, as is the case with all precious minerals, and people worldwide study the market for the best time to buy gold every year.
How Much Unmined Gold is Left on Earth?
It is not entirely clear how much unmined gold remains on earth. This lack of information is partly due to various countries being unwilling or unable to assess the assets they have.
One estimate suggests that around 57,000 tonnes of minable gold are left in underground reserves, yet to be discovered.
While this may seem like a lot, and it will certainly last a long time, it is not an unlimited supply. Many scientists agree that the way in which we use gold has to change.
Historically, gold was mined, used, and recycled. This is particularly true when it comes to high-price jewelry items.
But, with the rise of gold in technology, like cell phone chips, for the first time in human history, the rates of gold recycling are decreasing.
Industries use it in incredibly small quantities, making it uneconomical to extract and recycle. This builds up over time and will eventually degrade the earth’s gold reserves.
Substitutes for Gold
While nothing exactly replaces gold, decreasing supply (and future concerns about where technology, aerospace engineering, and other fields go without gold) has led some to consider alternatives to gold.
Some companies turn to these alternatives as cheaper, easier to acquire materials that make production less expensive, while others hope to make their products more environmentally sustainable.
Some of the many gold alternatives include base metals clad with gold alloys and palladium, platinum, and silver.
These are common substitutes for gold, but are not without their own acquisition issues.
Today, scientists estimate around 220,462 metric tons (or 200,000 tonnes) of gold on earth. Another loose estimate suggests that around 57,000 metric tons (52,000 tonnes) of gold is still on the earth. It is a material that has been used for thousands of years and is more popular today than ever.
Gold is multi-purpose and desired by many as a status symbol. But, sometime in the future, a wide variety of industries will need to find alternatives as the earth’s supply runs dry.