South Africa and the US host two each of the world’s ten largest gold mines, while Indonesia, Russia, Papua New Guinea, Chile, Australia, and the Dominican Republic house the remaining. South Deep gold mine in South Africa has the largest gold deposits in the world. Mining Technology lists the top ten biggest gold mines in the world based on contained gold reserves.
1. South Deep gold mine, South Africa
2. Grasberg gold mine, Indonesia
3. Olimpiada gold mine, Russia
4. Lihir gold mine, Papua New Guinea
5. Norte Abierto gold mine, Chile
6. Carlin Trend gold mine, USA
7. Boddington gold mine, Western Australia
8. Mponeng gold mine, South Africa
9. Pueblo Viejo gold mine, Dominican Republic
10. Cortez gold mine, USA
South Deep gold mine is the largest gold mine in the world, by reserves. Located 45km south-west of Johannesburg in the Witwatersrand Basin, South Africa, South Deep is also the seventh deepest mine in the world, with a mine depth up to 2,998m below the surface.
The managed mineral reserve at South Deep as of December 2018 stood at 32.8Moz.
South Deep was known by the name Western Areas Gold Mine until 2000. Mining operations at the site were started in 1961. Goldfields became the owner and operator of the South Deep gold mine in 2006. The underground gold mine is operated through two shaft systems, known as the South Shaft complex and the Twin Shaft complex.
South Deep produced 157,100oz of gold in 2018, compared to 281,300oz in 2017. The mine life of South Deep is expected to be extended up to 2092.
Grasberg gold mine in the Papua province of Indonesia was discovered in 1988. The Grasberg mining operation consists of the Grasberg open-pit and four underground mines, namely DOZ, DMLZ, Big Gossan, and Grasberg Block Cave (GBC). It also includes an undeveloped ore body named Kucing Liar.
The mine is operated by Freeport Indonesia (PTFI), a subsidiary of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX). PTFI owns 90.64% of the Grasberg mining operation, while the rest (9.36%) is owned by the Government of Indonesia.
The open-pit operation started in 1990 and was expected to be completed by the end of 2019. Ore production at the GBC underground mine started in the third quarter of 2019. Ongoing expansions at the mine are expected to ramp up the production to 240,000t per day by 2022.
The mine produced 2.69 million ounces (Moz) of gold in 2018, milling 178,100t of ore a day.
Olimpiada gold mine, located in the Krasnoyarsk region of Eastern Siberia, Russia, is owned and operated by Polyus Gold
The mine had proven and probable reserve is estimated at 26Moz (281Mt grading 2.88g/t gold) as of December 2018.
It employs a conventional open-pit method with the use of shovel and truck. The extracted ore is processed at two nearby plants with a combined annual capacity of 13 million tonnes.
First production at Olimpiada gold mine occurred in 1996. The mine produced 1.3Moz of gold in 2018. It was transitioned to autonomous machine operation in January 2019.
Lihir gold mine, located 900km north-east of Port Moresby in the New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG), has been in production since 1997. It is owned and operated by Lihir Gold Limited (LGL), which was merged with Newcrest Mining in August 2010. Newcrest Mining currently owns and operates the Lihir gold mine.
Lihir mine had in-situ gold reserves of 24Moz (330Mt grading 2.3g/t gold) as of December 2018
Most of the ore extracted from Lihir is treated through pressure oxidation and conventional leaching. The mine produced 933,000oz of gold in the financial year ending June 2019.
Newcrest completed a prefeasibility study for the Lihir pit optimisation in February 2016. The mine is expected to produce 1Moz of gold in 2020.
The Norte Abierto gold mine, which is yet to commence production, is located in the Atacama Region of Chile. Norte Abierto, a 50:50 joint venture between Barrick Gold and Newmont Goldcorp, is developing the mine as an open-pit project.
The mine was estimated to contain 23.2Moz of proven and probable gold reserves as of December 2018.
Two deposits named Cerro Casale and Caspiche that are located at a distance of 12km from each other, within the Maricunga Gold Belt of northern Chile, will be mined as part of the project.
Carlin Trend gold mine operated by Newmont in Nevada, US, had combined proven and probable gold reserves of 12.46Moz, including open-pit and underground reserves of 5.6Moz and 4.87Moz respectively, as of December 2018, while the stockpiles reserves were estimated to be 1.25Moz.
Newmont started open-pit mining at Carlin in 1965, while underground mining was started in 1994. The open-pit mines include the Carlin, Emigrant, Gold Quarry, and Silverstar pits. The operation also includes four underground mines namely Carlin East, Deep Post, Chukar, and Leeville.
The Carlin mine complex produced 927,000oz of gold in 2018, compared to 972,000oz of gold in 2017.
The Newmont-operated Boddington gold mine located near Boddington, Western Australia, first commenced open-pit operations in 1987 by extracting the shallow oxide ores up to 70m-deep below surface. It was put under care and maintenance in 2001.
Commercial production from the Boddington gold mine was restarted in 2009, with an expected mine life of up to 20 years.
The mine contained a gold reserve of 12.35Moz including 1.3Moz of gold contained in stockpiles as of December 2018. It produced 709,000oz of gold in 2018.
Newmont invested approximately $500m in a significant expansion of the mine’s south pit in 2015, which is expected to extend the life of the mine until 2025.
Mponeng gold mine located near the town of Carletonville, South Africa, is owned and operated by AngloGold Ashanti. The underground gold mine is also currently the deepest mine in the world with a depth of more than 4km below the surface.
The mine had contained gold reserve of 11.65Moz (36.47Mt grading 9.93g/t gold), as of December 2018. It produced 265,000oz of gold in 2018.
The mine uses a sequential grid mining method. The gold plant complex and the shafts at Mponeng were commissioned in 1986.
Pueblo Viejo mine, located roughly 100km north-west of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, is owned and operated by Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corporation (PVDC), which is a joint venture between Barrick Gold (60%) and Newmont Goldcorp (40%).
Its contained gold reserves as of December 2018 were 10.92Moz (127.9Mt grading 2.66/t gold).
The open-pit mine exploits gold resources from two major oxide deposits, namely Monte Negro and Moore, as well as from three other small deposits.
Pueblo Viejo was brought into commercial production in January 2013. It produced 581,000oz of gold in 2018. The life of the gold mine is estimated to be more than 25 years.
Cortez gold mine, located 100km south-west of Elko, in Lander County, Nevada, US, is owned and operated by Barrick Gold.
It contains 8.7Moz (145Mt grading 1.87g/t gold) of contained gold, including 1.13Moz of proven and 7.59Moz of probable reserves.
Production from Cortez was started in 1969. The mine employs both open-pit and underground mining methods. Gold from Cortez open-pit, Pipeline, and South Pipeline deposits are extracted through conventional open-pit methods.
The Cortez Hills underground mine is operated by twin declines. Underhand cut-and-fill mining method is used to exploit the breccia ore. Barrick Gold produced 1.7Moz of gold from Cortez mine in 2018.
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