Mines have been responsible for helping to meet the global gold demand for thousands of years. It’s an industry that has undergone some astounding changes and technological innovations over the years.
For example, many people picture gold nuggets when they think of gold mining, but pure nuggets gold are actually really rare in the mining industry. Gold is more commonly found in ore as microscopic particles. In most mining operations, every ton of ore only produces <10 grams of gold. In other words, 1 ton of ore is only .0005% gold.
So really, gold mining is much more complex than digging up nuggets and melting them down. Gold ore must be carefully refined to get every molecule of the precious metal. The process for most mines involves tons of heavy machinery, water, electricity, chemicals, crucibles, and more.
Needless to say, the image of the old prospector armed with a pickaxe and sluice boxes is dated. In the modern mining industry, a more accurate analogy would be scientists working in a laboratory. Below, we’ve created an infographic to help you understand how gold gets from the ground to a jewelry store in the 21st century. Gold mining techniques will vary between geological areas, but this example of cyanide leeching is most common.