Gold and silver are considered important metal resources in society.
In this short guide, we summarise how much gold and silver there might be left on earth (above & below ground), and when we might run out of each (in years).
Summary – How Much Gold & Silver There Is Left, & When We Might Run Out
Some estimates indicate that gold mining may reach the point of being economically unsustainable by 2050, and that without large advances in mining technology or huge reserves being discovered, large scale gold mining likely won’t continue past 2075
Some estimates indicate that we could run out of silver somewhere between 2028 and 2033
Some reports indicate that silver and gold can be lost to industrial use, and a lack of recycling and material recovery when waste is dumped.
What should also be mentioned is that there is a lot of gold located deep in the Earth and in other locations, but, a lot of it might be physically inaccessible, or too expensive to extract (compared to what can be paid for it by buyers).
One of the problems with gold is that is can be scattered in trace amounts instead of being concentrated
We’ve discussed some other factors and considerations that might be at play with the future estimated supply of gold and silver in this guide about the future supply of oil (some factors are applicable to all mined resources and energy sources)
How Much Gold Has Already Been Mined?
Current estimates [as of 2017] … suggest that around 187,200 tons of gold have already been mined, two-thirds of which were mined in the last 70 years or so
How Much Gold Is Left On Earth In The Ground?
As far as the amount of gold that remains in the earth … there are about 57,000 tons left to be mined.
When Will We Run Out Of Gold (In Years)?
Based on known reserves, estimates suggest that gold mining could reach the point of being economically unsustainable by 2050, though new vein discoveries will likely push that date back somewhat.
New technologies may also make it possible to extract some known reserves that aren’t currently economical to access, but it is unlikely that large-scale gold mining will continue past 2075 without either huge mining technology advances or the discovery of currently unknown massive gold deposits.
How Much Silver Has Already Been Mined?
[Since 2016, it is estimated that 48.5 billion oz has been produced/mined]
… most physical silver mined over time has been lost to industrial use and gone unrecycled
How Much Silver Is Left On Earth In The Ground?
[It is estimated there was 530,000 MT of silver reserves in 2018]
Although silver was a principal product at several mines, silver was primarily obtained as a byproduct from lead-zinc mines, copper mines, and gold mines
Read about the known silver reserves by country at https://investingnews.com/daily/resource-investing/precious-metals-investing/silver-investing/silver-reserves-by-country/
When Will We Run Out Of Silver (In Years)?
Based on known reserves, and production rates:
[we could run out of silver somewhere between 2028 and 2033]
Why Gold & Silver Estimates Can Be Inaccurate, & Why We Might Have A Lot More Gold & Silver Than Estimates Indicate
Gold and silver reserves and holdings are not always reported accurately
It’s hard to track above ground gold and silver because it’s used in items like jewellery (jewellery gets lost, or changes hands without records), or in private investment and industrial purposes
Smaller mines in developing nations often don’t report their mined gold and silver
There’s theoretically almost an unlimited amount of particularly gold left in the earth, but in very small trace amounts – so, there’s a difference between the presence of gold, and economically viable reserves where a mine can be set up and extract the gold
A lot of gold is located deep in the earth – beyond the level that we can currently economically or physically mine
Gold for example is also found in the ocean – with certain barriers in place for us to mine it
+ other reasons
Take this estimation from WestCoastPlacer:
… within 4000m of the surface of Earth’s crust there is 35 billion tons of gold.
With a remaining 87 billion under the ocean.
Only a small portion of that is concentrated enough to mine … [and we’ve only explored small pockets of the earth so far]
You may like to read these guides about resource/reserve numbers, and factors impacting supply for different resources: