Production from the world’s ten largest gold producers (Newmont, Barrick, Polyus, AngloGold Ashanti, Kinross, Gold Fields, Newcrest, Agnico Eagle, Kirkland Lake Gold and Polymetal International) decreased by 1.1% to 13.1 million ounces (moz) in H1 2021 due to lower ore grades, sale of assets, lower mill throughput and lower recoveries.

Production from these ten companies is expected to recover by around 13.5%, to 14.9moz in the second half, if the top end of the guidance are met. Overall, however, 2021 output from these ten will remain relatively flat, in between 27moz and 28moz, compared with the collective output in 2020 (27.7moz). The highest increase in H2 2021 came from Agnico Eagle, owing to increased mining and milling rates and higher grades at the Meadowbank Complex alongside higher throughput at Meliadine.

The most significant falls in production during the first half were observed from AngloGold Ashanti (6.1%), Barrick (12.9%) and Newcrest (7.1%). The collective output from these companies declined to 4.4moz in H1 2021 from nearly 5moz in H1 2020.

While AngloGold’s Q1 operations were affected by operational challenges, such as low ore grades, lower mill throughput and increased operational costs, Q2 operations were impacted by both the pandemic and the suspension of underground mining activities at Obuasi, following a fall-of-ground incident in May 2021.

Meanwhile, transition at Barrick’s Goldstrike autoclave from acid to alkaline ore, less ore processed at the Carlin roasters during Q1 2021 and a failure at one of the two mills at the Carlin mine in Q2, coupled with extended planned maintenance shutdown at the Turquoise Ridge’s Sage autoclave, impacted output. In addition, lower recovery, as well as lower throughput at several mines, further reduced the H1 2021 production.

Overall, production from the top five countries (China, Australia, Russia, the US and Canada) is expected to increase by 5.7% to 50.8moz in 2021. Production in China, after reaching an all-time high in 2014 before a subsequent downtrend, is expected to grow by around 4% in 2021. The country has been tackling issues related to frequent policy changes and depleting ore reserves, to which the pandemic became an additional challenge in 2020.

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Production in Indonesia will increase by 13.7% owing to a rise in output from Grasberg – among the world’s five largest gold mines – following a transition to underground activities during H1 2019. Following steep declines in 2020, production is also expected to increase in Canada and Western Africa in 2021.