Modest global gold output growth expected over next decade

WORLD gold production is expected to grow by an average annual rate of 2.2% through 2028, increasing from an estimated 106.3Moz in 2019 to 129.1Moz, Fitch Solutions says in a new report.
Modest global gold output growth expected over next decade Modest global gold output growth expected over next decade Modest global gold output growth expected over next decade Modest global gold output growth expected over next decade Modest global gold output growth expected over next decade

Fitch sees average annual global gold production growth of 2.24% through 2028

Henry Lazenby

The research group expects gold production growth to "maintain a healthy rate" over the coming years, as slightly higher prices and stronger company balance sheets encourage greater mine investment.

This would represent an acceleration from the average annual growth rate of just 1.3% over 2016-2018 period, analysts said.

"We expect gold prices to grind very gradually higher over the coming years, averaging US$1300/oz in 2019 and $1450/oz by 2022."

The world's largest producer China is expected to maintain roughly stagnant growth in the period through 2028, eking out tepid growth of 0.2% per annum to maintain output at roughly 15Mozpa. That represents a notable slowdown compared with the 10-year average of 5.5%.

Chinese gold output fell a significant 8% year-on-year in 2017 to 14.8Moz due to the enforcement of strict environmental regulations and closures of smaller mines and falling ore grades in general.

Fitch expects major Chinese firms to ramp-up investment in foreign gold mines, as the country's gold demand growth far outpaces production.

This is borne out in recent deal making, which saw Shandong Gold buy a 50% stake Barrick Gold's Veladero mine in Argentina for $960 million. The firms will also work together on exploration activities in the area.

In 2017, Zijin Mining produced 1.2Moz gold, reportedly accounting for 10.2% of China's total output.

Australia is expected to see stronger production growth, as a strong project pipeline, projected rising prices and competitive operating costs support an average annual growth rate of 3% to 13.2Moz by 2028.

Fitch expects the dominant players Barrick Gold, Newcrest Mining, Newmont Mining, Gold Fields and AngloGold Ashanti to drive this growth. The miners together account for about 70% of the country's total output, according to Fitch data.

The research team expects production growth in Russia to accelerate to 4% in 2019 from 0.8% in 2018. Annual growth is expected to average 3.5% to 2028, growing from 9.72Moz in 2019 to 13.18Moz in 2028.

Paradoxically, expanding US sanctions on Russia are expected to support gold production in the jurisdiction in the short term. Fitch said the rising risk of Russian state banks being frozen out of dealing in dollar-denominated assets all together as bi-lateral relations remained strained was pushing the Russian central bank to increase its holdings of gold.

Polyus Gold's Natalka project is expected to be the key contributor to new gold production in the country. The project has capacity to add 420,000-470,000ozpa.

Fitch also forecast US gold production to maintain steady growth on the back of improving prices and a good pipeline of green- and brownfield projects.

Between 2019-2028, US gold output is expected to average growth of 1% annually from 8.04Moz to 8.83Moz.

The analyst sees the US attracting significant gold mining investment, with Nevada being the standout destination for foreign exploration and development. This is driven by Barrick's commitment to several large-scale projects in the state.

These include the firm's flagship Goldrush project near Cortez, which offers measured and indicated resources of 10.6Moz, as well as the Turquoise Ridge mine near Winnemucca, in which it has a 75% stake.

Newmont achieved commercial production at the Long Canyon gold mine ahead of schedule and below budget in January.

Canada's growth profile will average 2.7% through 2028, growing from 6.32Moz in 2019 to 7.77Moz in 2028.

Canada has the world's largest gold project by capex on the books. Seabridge Gold is pushing forward with its massive $15.5 million Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell project in British Columbia, which in its current format could sustain production of 592,000ozpa for 51 years.