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Where Are the Largest Gold Deposits Found?

By T. Carrier
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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While many of the precious metal gold deposits that spurred gold rushes of the past are long gone, many of the world's largest gold deposits still generate bounties of gold each year. The Witwatersrand Basin of South Africa is perhaps responsible for the biggest bulk of gold production. The other largest gold deposits are prized sometimes for the sheer amount of gold they produce, sometimes for the value of the gold they produce, and often for both reasons. The following areas include some of the biggest and most valued gold deposits: Muruntau, Grasberg, Natalka, Olympic Dam, Sukhoi, and the Sierra Nevada. Some of the most promising gold deposits remain largely untapped, however, as they reside in Earth's oceans.

Since researchers estimate that nearly half of all gold mined since the 20th century has come from South Africa’s Witwatersrand Basin, this sea bed may just hold the distinction of world’s largest gold deposit. Nicknamed “The Strand,” the basin measures about 9 million acres. A sizable chunk of this vast expanse remains unmined. Scientists have theorized that rivers, hot springs, and other water sources are responsible for the region’s largest gold deposits, which may be as much as 3 billion years old.

Although the quantity of gold produced by Witswatersrand is impressive, it does not actually hold the title of world's largest mine in overall area. This particular award goes to the Grasberg mine in Indonesia. The amounts of gold produced are not as high as some competitors, but what this mine may lack in comparable abundance it makes up for in the overall value of its gold deposits.

The Muruntau Mine lays claim as the largest open gold mine in the world. As an open pit mine, excavation requires no tunneling. This monstrous deposit is truly an oasis desert: namely, the Kyzilkum Desert of Uzbekistan. Discovered in 1955, the slate and quartz-surrounded deposit yields enough gold to mark it as one of the independent country's first and most successful business ventures.

Australia's Olympic Dam is also one of the top five largest gold deposits. This area gained prominence in 2007. In addition to gold, the Olympic Dam is also abundant in copper and uranium.

As for the Western Hemisphere, one of the largest and most renowned gold deposit regions rests along a roughly 120 mile (about 193 kilometers) stretch in California. Nicknamed the Mother Lode because of its abundant veins of gold, this rich deposit is specifically located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Since its discovery in the 1850s, this region has produced hundreds of tons of gold.

Other large areas for gold extraction have also come into prominence since the 20th century. The Sukhoi gold deposit of Siberia is a dome-like area that was closely guarded by the local government. Its discovery resulted from new geological methods. Heavy investment has also led to more mining and drilling in nearby large Russian gold deposit Natalka.

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Discussion Comments
By Ana1234 — On Apr 16, 2014

@croydon - A lot of human endeavors can be seen as ridiculous if they are viewed through that kind of lens. Gold mining has provided a huge amount of jobs over the years and it isn't entirely frivolous. Gold has quite a few industrial uses apart from its worth as a universal currency.

By croydon — On Apr 15, 2014

@Iluviaporos - I suspect it might also have to do with the fact that gold is often added as a novelty ingredient to food like desserts. I've seen it be added to medication as well and in other places where it might end up down the sewer.

It's a relatively soft metal, so it's easy for it to flake away from where ever it is placed and it would naturally get washed down with waste water into a sewer system.

I think it's a really good thing. I'd love it if more metals were recycled rather than dug out of the earth. Gold in particular is seen as a source of wealth rather than having much extrinsic value so it's ridiculous how many resources are wasted trying to mine it.

By lluviaporos — On Apr 14, 2014

Apparently you can find quite a lot of gold in a city sewer or sanitation system these days. I've heard that some cities are making quite a fair amount of money from it. Almost as much as they would from a mine.

I guess it would come from people losing gold jewelry and other items and it getting washed into the sewers.

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