This paper discusses what appears to be a flaw in the current belief, widely held within the gold mining industry and investment community, that the creation of ever-larger gold mining companies is desirable for mining companies and investors alike. The basis of the flaw is in the underlying assumption that very large gold producers can discover or acquire new gold deposits of the size necessary to replace extracted reserves on a year-on-year basis over the intermediate to long term (i.e., five to ten years and longer). As it will be noted in this paper, deposits of the size required to replace annual production of very large gold producers (VLGPs) are relatively few in number. Although discoveries of new gold deposits continue to be made, they are predominantly in the 0.5 to 2.0 million ounce range. Data represented here suggest that, although gold production from individual VLGPs continues to increase, the change is due to merging or acquiring other companies or projects with similar reserve life profiles. Therefore, the reserve life profiles of VLGPs have remained flat or have decreased.
The paper will note recent changes in the industry and the remarkable increase in gold production reported by individual mining companies over the past several years. It will provide an overview of the geographical and geological distribution of known gold deposits and the range of deposit sizes. Finally, the paper will discuss the challenges that face large gold producers in replenishing their reserves that are being depleted at an ever-increasing rate. Unless otherwise stated, all production and reserve data have been taken from company documents in the public domain or publicly available information.