Data from 2015 show that over 185,000 tonnes of gold have been extracted and now exist above ground (although, somewhat ironically, quite a lot of that has been put back below ground again for safekeeping in vaults).
Roughly three-fourths of the presently accounted for gold was extracted in 1910 or later, which is after the big famous gold rushes in California and Canada.
In 2015, jewellery accounted for roughly half of the world´s consumption of new gold. About 40% was for investments and 10% industry.
Short facts about pure gold
- It is a chemical element with atomic number 79 and symbol Au.
- It is a dense, soft, malleable and ductile metal.
- It is bright and sports a slightly reddish hue of yellow.
- It is one of the least reactive chemical elements.
- It is resistant to most acids, but can be dissolved using aqua regia (a mix of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid)
- It dissolves in alkaline solutions of cyanide.
Gold often occurs in its free elemental form in nature, e.g. as nuggets and grains, in rocks, in veins, and in alluvial deposits.
Gold occurs as a solid solution series with silver and is also naturally alloyed with copper and palladium. On Earth, gold most often occurs as a native metal – often as a gold-silver alloy with a silver content of 8-10 percent. If the silver content reaches 20% the gold-silver alloy is called electrum.
More rarely, gold occurs in minerals as gold compounds. One example is the gold tellurides (with tellurium).
The Witwatersrand basin in South Africa has some of the richest gold deposits on earth.
Which country extracts the most gold?
China is currently the world´s main gold extractor. In 2017, 440 tonnes of gold was extracted by China.
What are lodes?
Lode deposits = gold particles embedded in rock. The gold is often found together with quartz or the pyrite known as ”fools gold”.
In addition to the lode deposits, we also encounter native gold in the form of nuggets, flakes and grains that have been eroded from lode deposits. Nuggets can form when smaller gold particles are pushed together by water action.
Does our gold come from asteroids?
When Earth was still molten, during the formation of our planet, most of the gold present at that point probably sank into the core of the planet. Scientists have therefore speculated that at least some of the gold that we find in Earth´s crust today might have arrived to this planet later in the form of asteroids, e.g. during the Late Heavy Bombardment that took place 4 billion years ago.
Gold can also have been rising up from the core to the mantle, during the period when the mantle was formed. So, gold that once sank to the core when the Earth was molten, could have migrated later outwards again later and been incorporated in the mantle as it was formed.
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