Saturday, November 28, 2009

Peak Gold

Most have heard about Peak Oil – the proposition that world oil production has peaked and is in terminal decline. Now, Peak Gold is being proclaimed by industry experts. Vincent Borg, spokesman for the world’s biggest gold producer Barrick Gold, says gold production has been in decline since 2001. Total gold production peaked at 2,600 tonnes per year around 2000. The reason gold production has peaked is that existing mines are being depleted and new discoveries are few and small. Also, it takes many years to bring a resource discovery into production.

Demand, on the other hand, has increased to 3,800 tonnes in 2009 according to the World Gold Council. Over the decade from 1999 to 2009 central banks have sold 3,867 tonnes of their gold under various Central Bank Gold Agreements. These agreements have now ended and no more central bank selling is planned. Even with central bank selling the gold price has increased well over 200% since 1999. During the last several years a number of Gold Exchange Traded Funds have appeared. These are funds that sell shares to investors that track the price of gold. These funds must purchase and hold physical gold to back the shares. Currently these funds hold 2,000 tonnes of gold and represent a major new source of demand. The financial crisis that began in 2007 adds other demands as large institutional investors that have never owned gold before move into the market. New small investors are attracted to buy into the funds, coins and jewellery.

It appears that Peak Gold is real. Given the current climate – the gold price has only one way to go.

An interesting fact: The total amount of gold ever produced will fill a little more than 3 Olympic-size swimming pools. Here is the calculation. The World Gold Council estimates 163,000 tonnes of gold exists above ground today. That is 163,000,000 kg. The density of gold is 19,300 kg per cubic meter. Dividing 163,000,000 kg by 19,300 kg per cubic meter gives 8456 cubic meters as the volume of all the gold in existence. The volume of an Olympic-size swimming pool is 2,500 cubic meters (50 m by 25 m by 2 m). Dividing 8456 cubic meters by 2,500 cubic meters give 3.34 Olympic-size swimming pools as the volume of the gold in the world.