Gold From the rest of the world
The three greatest gold-producing nations in the world are China, Australia, and Russia. China mines more gold than anybody else, and by a large margin at over 450 tonnes per year, compared to Australia at just under 300 tonnes and Russia a bit less. This is a relatively recent development, however, as South Africa was the undisputed leader for over a century ending in 2006, and no country will likely ever match its peak production in the 1970s. Three other countries now surpass South Africa – the USA, Canada, and Peru. It is noteworthy that China’s rapid pace of production, more than doubling in just over a decade, has known reserves amounting to a quarter or less of what remains in the Australian and Russian territories.
Gold in the Histories of the Big 3
In a testament to the ancient character of Chinese civilization (that few Westerners truly appreciate), its first gold “coin” was not round. The Ying Yuan, dating back to the 5th or 6th Century BCE, were sheets of gold, 3 – 5 mm. thick, with single or double characters indicating value or weight. Round coins, often with square or round holes in them, appeared later, as did an astonishing variety of coin types through 3000 years of the culture’s many dynasties.
Previously burdened with the unfortunate role as a penal colony for Britain, Australia’s fate changed in 1851 with gold finds that brought droves of fortune-seekers tripled its population in 20 years. With them came construction, education, communications, and development of the nation’s ample resources and character. Today Australia has one of the highest median wealth levels in the world, strongly based on exports of commodities, including gold.
Russia is the largest country in the world, with the resources to match including gold, of which production has increased dramatically since 2008. Russia’s Central Bank is one of the world’s largest holders of bullion, and is constantly bolstering those holdings. While hampered by a lack of modern production technologies due to sanctions by Western nations, Moscow has indicated it plans to increase annual gold production to 400 tonnes by 2030. Chinese interests are investing heavily in this development.
Notable Coins from the Big 3 Gold-Producing Nations
The Chinese Gold Panda
The pride of China in its most famous animal species is expressed in its gold bullion coin, the Chinese Gold Panda. The Official Mint of the People’s Republic of China has issued the series since 1982 with a different bear design each year, while the opposite side depicts Beijing’s magnificent Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage site built 600 years ago.
Australian Gold Kangaroo
Australia has also changed designs on its Australian Gold Nugget bullion coin every year since production began at the Perth Mint in 1986. That design featured nuggets until 1989 but has since mimicked the Chinese example by depicting the animal most identified with the Land Down Under – the red kangaroo. Interestingly, the other major Perth Mint series of note is the Australian Lunar Gold Bullion series, which uses images of the Chinese calendar.
Gold George The Victorious Coin
Russia came much later to the bullion coin market, in 2006 when its Central Bank first issued the Gold George the Victorious coin. Nearly as small as the Gold Sovereign, it also shares with the British coin the ancient depiction of St. George slaying a dragon. It differs with a higher fineness of gold at 99.9. Its face value is 50 rubles.