Will The World Ever Run Out Of Gold?

Gold is one of the most valuable metals on Earth because it is durable, virtually indestructible, and pretty. Because it never loses its shine, gold has been a favorite among humans for thousands of years (via Britannica). Experts believe that the obtainable amounts of gold on Earth arrived via meteorites hitting the planet some 200,000 years ago, according to Science Daily. There is also plenty of gold in the Earth's core. In fact, there is enough to coat the planet with 13 inches of it, if only we could get to it (per World Atlas). Nor is gold valuable just for its aesthetic appeal. It's an important metal for industry, used widely in various technologies, including communications, computers, and jet aircraft engines (via the U.S. Geological Survey). 

Since the gold at the core of the Earth isn't attainable, we are left with reserves that exist in the planet's crust, and there are plenty of gold mines across the world. The largest producers of gold are China, Russia, Australia, Canada, and the United States, according to the World Gold Council. But could we ever run out of it?

We may have already reached peak gold

We may have already reached what some experts call "peak gold," which means most of the gold in the world has been mined, per the BBC. In 2019, gold mine production totaled 3,531 tons, which was 1% lower than 2018 (per BBC). Gold production is predicted to be up slightly in 2022, to 3,588 tons, but experts predict that after 2024, gold mine production is expected to decrease at an annual rate of 0.8% through 2026 (via Kitco). To put that into perspective, China mined around 332 tons in 2021, per the World Gold Council.

Hannah Brandstaetter, a spokesman for the World Gold Council, told the BBC that as it becomes harder to discover new areas to mine gold, it is quite possible that we could have reached a peak. This doesn't mean that we will begin to notice any changes in production immediately, but over decades, output could gradually decline. And, of course, the more rare it becomes, the more expensive it will be, according to Insider.

The Earth could eventually be depleted

Companies that mine gold have ways of determining how much gold is in the ground. The U.S. Geological Survey reports that the amount of gold in ground reserves is around 57,000 tons. But that number is what the BBC calls a "moving target," meaning that new ways to extract it from the Earth could be discovered. This includes advanced technology, which is already being implemented at some mining sites.

But because there is a theoretical limited supply of gold, we could possibly run out. In 2016, it was estimated that there were only about 20 more years of known mineable reserves of gold left (per Insider). Of course, that doesn't mean that we won't stop looking for it. In fact, the quest could take us to the moon, but we don't know how much is up there, and it wouldn't be economical to attempt to do so.