All recorded mined gold in human history amounts to approximately 6.6 billion ounces, or 205,238 metric tons.
To put this into perspective, if every ounce of this gold were placed side by side, the resulting cube of pure gold would only measure about 22 meters on a side, says the World Gold Council.
According to the Vaneck Merk Gold Trust, most of the gold supply comes from mine production, including gold produced in both primary deposits and secondary deposits where gold is mined as a by-product.
Gold is produced in mines on all continents except Antarctica (where mining is prohibited by the Antarctic Treaty).
South Africa used to be the largest gold producing country in the world. At its peak in the early 1970s, South Africa contributed more than 70% of world production.
However, over the last four decades, South African production has declined, while other countries have greatly expanded gold mining.
In recent years, gold has been increasingly mined in developing countries; China is currently the world’s largest gold producing country.
Other notable gold producing countries include Australia, Russia, and South Africa.
In 2021, world mining production amounted to 114.5 million ounces, 2.8 million ounces more than the previous year.
On the other hand, recycled gold, or scrap gold, is the second largest source of gold supply.
The indestructibility of gold means that it can be recovered from recycled jewelry and industrial products. This gold can be melted down, refined, and cast into bullion for resale on the gold market. Supplies emanating from recycled gold have been steadily increasing over the last two decades and come predominantly from recycled gold jewelry.
Vaneck Merk Gold Trust said supplies were at high levels during the 1997–1998 Asian financial crisis and hit a record 41.2 million ounces in 2009, fueled by the global financial crisis and rising gold prices.
Since then, the total amount of scrap gold has decreased to 37 million ounces in 2021.
In 2016, the most recent year for which complete data is available, China, India and Turkey are the top three countries supplying recycled gold, accounting for 34.8% of total recycled gold recovered.
China is now the largest scrap supplying nation, supplying 7.5 million ounces, or 18.3% of total secondary supply, in 2016.
India and Turkey contributed 10.4 and 6.1% of the total secondary gold supply, respectively, in 2016.