LONDON: The gold mining industry is keen to show off its green credentials.
The World Gold Council has revealed that of the $60.1 billion its 33 members generated in revenue in 38 countries around the world last year, 63 percent, or $37.9 billion of it remained in the nations where the mining operations were based.
The trade body, whose members account for around 40 percent of the global output, pointed out that in five countries the industry supported more than 3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, roughly the size of internationally recognized overseas development assistance levels.
In eight countries gold mining firms accounted for more than 5 percent of all government income, the association said in a recent report titled, “The Social and Economic Contribution of Gold Mining.”
WGC Chief Financial Officer Terry Heymann said in an interview: “In Suriname the contribution is as high as 16.3 percent, Malawi its 8 percent and 6.6 percent in Burkina Faso.
“These contributions come as tax. But they also come in the form of new roads built into the site, or energy sources to power it, which can be more than the mine needs. The surplus energy is then pumped into the local community.”
One council member, Canada’s Barrick Gold, uses hydroelectric power plants at its Kibali gold mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which it shares with residents of the African country’s northeastern province Haut-Uele.
In Burkina Faso, UK-based Nordgold powers its Bassi and Bouly mines with solar power, which also supplies the local towns and villages in the Centre-Nord region.
“Mines often help fund schools, hospitals and health clinics, because a site needs a healthy and educated workforce,” Heymann added.
The WGC report added: “Host nations and communities might therefore come to regard responsible and sustainable gold mining operations as representing of a ‘window of opportunity’ for development.”
Such windows can last for sustained periods. It can take a decade to fully explore a mining site, and five years to build, with a lifecycle of 30 to 50 years.
However, the world’s biggest producers of the precious yellow metal are mature countries that do not rely on its production for development.
China is currently the world’s largest miner, producing around 368.3 tons last year, followed by Russia with 331.1 tons, Australia with 327.8 tons and the US with 190.2 tons.
Gold production was not greatly affected by the coronavirus disease hitting 3,400.8 tons last year, just 4 percent down on 2019.
In the third quarter of this year, gold production increased 4 percent year-on-year to 960 tons, the largest quarterly production level on record and 3 percent higher than the same period in 2019.
Gold demand jumped by almost 25 percent last year, rising above $2,000 an ounce for the first time last August, as investors looked for a safe haven during the pandemic.
But the metal has given back those gains as the health crisis shows signs of easing, despite the emergence of the omicron COVID-19 variant, and is just under 6 percent lower than it was 12 months ago at around $1,793 an ounce.
Analysts are split on whether gold will jump to $3,000 an ounce in 2022. Some predict a rise due to persistent negative real interest rates, inflationary pressures and US dollar weakness as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. Others believe its price could fall to around $1,700 an ounce next year, due to rising supply and an easing of political tensions between China and the US as the health crisis subsides.
Heymann noted that gold remained a store of value, particularly when compared with newer digital currencies, such as Bitcoin and ether, that have grabbed headlines in the financial press in recent years.
He said: “There is a place in investors’ portfolios for gold. It is a stable long-term store of value, the pandemic has shown that. It is very liquid, it’s a physical asset, you know exactly what it is. And it’s a market that has been around for thousands of years.”