The World Gold Council has released a new report, The Direct Economic Impact of Gold, compiled for the council by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), that looks at the direct economic contribution of gold in the 15 largest gold-producing countries and the 13 largest gold-consuming countries during 2012. Together, these countries accounted for 76% of mined gold production and 81% of gold demand worldwide.

The PwC report concludes that the gold industry in these countries added at least $210 billion in value to the world’s gross domestic product in 2012, roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product of the Republic of Ireland or the Czech Republic.

PwC’s research is wide-ranging, covering the entire value chain of the gold industry from mining and refining to end-user consumption. Consumer demand for physical gold products—jewelry and small bars and coins—is estimated to have directly contributed around $110 billion to the world economy in 2012. Gold mining made an economic contribution of more than $78.4 billion.

Data limitations made estimation of the value created by the gold-recycling industry less certain, but based on available data, the PwC report estimates that recycled gold accounted for 37% of the global gold supply in 2012, with the value contributed to the global economy falling in the range of $23.4 billion to $27.6 billion.

PwC’s research only extended to the gold industry’s direct economic impacts. It did not consider indirect contributions to national economies from additional taxes, secondary employment, and social and infrastructural development. Further, it did not attempt to measure the economic impact of less formal and artisanal gold production.

Given these data limitations, the ultimate contribution of the world gold industry to the world economy in 2012 no doubt extended well beyond the $210 billion identified within the report.

In its discussion of mined gold supply, the PwC reports that the six top producing countries—China, Australia, the United States, Russia, Peru and South Africa—accounted for more than half of the gold mined globally. Total direct employment in gold mining across the 15 largest gold mining countries in 2012 is estimated to have been 527,900, excluding employment in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

Three countries stand out in terms of employment: South Africa had an estimated 145,600 gold mining employees, Russia 138,000, and China 98,200. Gold mining also employed more than 15,000 people in four other countries: Australia (32,300), Indonesia (18,600), Tanzania (17,100)  and Papua New Guinea (16,100).

Based on calculations of gross value added per worker, the United States, Russia and Peru had relatively productive mining sectors, as they are ranked as the second, third and fifth countries in terms of direct gross value added by gold mining, but ranked 10th, 11th, and 12th, respectively, in terms of employment.

The average gross value added per worker across the top 15 gold producing countries in 2012 is estimated at $295,000/worker; but it varies remarkably, from a high of $841,800/worker in the United States to a low of $39,600/worker in South Africa. 

Another key finding of the research is the significance of gold mining to the economies of developing nations. In Papua New Guinea, it accounted for 15% of the gross domestic product in 2012, followed by Ghana (8%) and Tanzania (6%). For developing nations, gold is also a major source of exports and, therefore, foreign exchange earnings. In 2012, gold provided 36% of all Tanzanian exports and 26% of the exports of Ghana and Papua New Guinea.

Commenting on the significance of the report, Jason Burkitt, U.K. Mining Leader, PwC, said, “This research is important as it examines the economic value generated by gold and where that value is created. The industry does make a significant impact globally, and this report helps us to understand better the fundamental role that gold plays in advancing economic development.”

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