Gold extraction is most economical in large, easily mined deposits. Ore grades as little as 0.5 mg/kg (0.5 parts per million, ppm) can be economical. Typical ore grades in open-pit mines are 1–5 mg/kg (1–5 ppm); ore grades in underground or hard rock mines are usually at least 3 mg/kg . Because ore grades of 30 mg/kg (30 ppm) are usually needed before gold is visible to the naked eye, in most gold mines the gold is invisible.
Since the 1880s, South Africa has been the source for a large proportion of the world's gold supply, with about 50% of all gold ever produced having come from South Africa. Production in 1970 accounted for 79% of the world supply, producing about 1,480 tonnes. 2008 production was 2,260 tonnes. In 2007 China (with 276 tonnes) overtook South Africa as the world's largest gold producer, the first time since 1905 that South Africa has not been the largest.
The city of Johannesburg located in South Africa was founded as a result of the Witwatersrand Gold Rush which resulted in the discovery of some of the largest gold deposits the world has ever seen. The British Empire and the Afrikaner Boers was at least partly over the rights of miners and possession of the gold wealth in South Africa.
Other major producers are the United States, Australia, Russia and Peru. Mines in South Dakota and Nevada supply two-thirds of gold used in the United States. In South America, the controversial project Pascua Lama aims at exploitation of rich fields in the high mountains of Atacama Desert, at the border between Chile and Argentina. Today about one-quarter of the world gold output is estimated to originate from artisanal or small scale mining.
At the end of 2009, it was estimated that all the gold ever mined totaled 165,000 tonnes. This can be represented by a cube with an edge length of about [url removed, login to view] meters. At $1,600 per ounce, 165,000 tons of gold would have a value of $8.8 trillion.
Most of the gold used in manufactured goods, jewelry, and works of art is eventually recovered and recycled. Some gold used in spacecraft and electronic equipment cannot be profitably recovered, but it is generally used in these applications in the form of extremely thin layers or extremely fine wires so that the total quantity used is small compared to the total amount of gold produced and stockpiled. Thus there is little true consumption of new gold in the economic sense; the stock of gold remains essentially constant while ownership shifts from one party to another.
The consumption of gold produced in the world is about 50% in jewelry, 40% in investments, and 10% in industry.
India is the world's largest single consumer of gold, as Indians buy about 25% of the world's gold, purchasing approximately 800 tonnes of gold every year, mostly for jewelry. India is also the largest importer of [url removed, login to view] India imported around 400 tonnes of gold. Indian households hold 18,000 tonnes of gold which represents 11% of the global stock and worth more than $950 billion.