Gold is a rare commodity. Although estimates vary, recent data from Thomson Reuters GFMS suggests that there are only 171,300 tonnes of the precious metal in the world. Despite that fact, gold mines can be found in numerous countries.
Here’s a look at the three largest gold mines in the world.
Operated by Arizona-based miner Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX), the Grasberg mine is considered by most experts to be the biggest gold mine in the world. It is also one of the largest copper mines.
Grasberg is located in the province of Papua in Indonesia. Open-pit operations at the mine began in 1990 and the company expects that they will continue through 2016. As of December 31, 2012, the Grasberg open pit’s recoverable proven and probable gold reserves sat at 6.5 million ounces.
The mine’s targeted gold output for 2013 is 1.25 million ounces, but recent setbacks may cause it to only produce 80 percent of that estimate. A mine tunnel collapsed May 14, forcing Freeport to shut down operations, and production did not resume until July 9.
There are still expansion projects in progress in the Grasberg mineral district, including the development of large-scale, high-grade underground ore bodies, according to the company’s 2012 annual report.
Located in the Andes Mountains in Peru, the Yanacocha mine is the largest gold mine in Latin America. It opened in 1993 and contains three active pits. Since its inception, the mine has produced more than 26 million ounces of gold.
Yanacocha is owned and operated by Colorado-based gold producer Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM,TSX:NMC). The company holds a 51.35-percent interest in the property and the rest is claimed by Compania de Minas Buenaventura (NYSE:BVN).
In 2012, Yanacocha produced 1.346 million ounces of gold. As of December 31, 2012, the asset had 3 million attributable ounces of gold reserves. It is part of a joint venture with Newmont’s Conga Project in Peru. Together they are known as Minera Yanacocha.
The Yanacocha area has recently seen a number of protests from Peruvian residents who do not want the Conga project to proceed, as reported by The Peruvian Times. The opposition is due to the fact that the new mine will require Newmont to drain three lakes in the Cajamarca region.
The Goldstrike mine is located on the Carlin Trend in Northeastern Nevada and is run by Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX,TSX:ABX). Mining at Goldstrike began in 1987. The property is a compilation of the Betze-Post open-pit mine and the Meikle and Rodeo underground mines.
In 2012, it produced 1.17 million ounces of gold at a total cost of $541 per ounce. This year, Barrick expects to deliver between 0.87 and 0.94 million ounces of the precious metal at a total cost of $680 to $700 per ounce. As of December 31, 2012, Goldstrike’s proven and probable gold reserves sat at 12.3 million ounces, according to Barrick’s website.
At the end of June, the company announced that it will be downsizing its workforce by 55 people in Nevada and Utah because of lower gold prices, higher operating costs and a suffering stock price, The Associated Press reported.