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Australian gold production for the first half of 2021 topped Chinese output by four tonnes, new figures show.

Gold specialists, Melbourne-based Surbiton Associates said this was based on the China Gold Association’s recently released figures for the period.

In the latest six-month period, Australia produced 157 tonnes of gold, with 74 tonnes in the March quarter 2021 and 83 tonnes in the June quarter 2021. This compared with the reported Chinese output of 153 tonnes.

“We shall have to see what happens to gold production in the next six months, both in Australia and in China,” Surbiton Associates director Dr Sandra Close said.

“It was reported that Chinese gold output was adversely affected by work accidents including deaths, with shut-downs resulting while investigations took place.”

According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), China has been the world’s largest producer of gold since 2007 when it surpassed South Africa.

The USGS estimated Chinese output at 380 tonnes in calendar 2020. Australia has remained the world’s second largest producer after China for over a decade, while South African production has fallen substantially.

“Australia’s gold production was 321 tonnes for the financial year 2020/21 and this is worth around A$26 billion at the current gold price of some A$2,500 per ounce,” Dr Close said.

“Gold has certainly made a sizeable contribution to the economy in what has been a most challenging COVID year.”

Australia’s 2020/21 output fell seven tonnes, or 2 per cent, compared with the previous financial year figure of 328 tonnes, which was an all-time record.

The nine tonne, or 12 per cent, increase from the March 2021 to the June 2021 quarter was due to a number of existing and new operations recording higher gold production.

It is interesting to look at the amount of money now being spent on gold exploration as a proportion of total mineral exploration expenditure,” Dr Close said.

“In 2001 gold exploration comprised around 55 per cent of total mineral exploration expenditure. It fell to only 20 per cent between 2008 and 2014 but has recovered now to around 50 per cent.”