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Australia is the world's No.2 for gold exports according to Surbiton Associates

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(Kitco News) - Surbiton Associates, the Melbourne-based specialist gold consultancy, says that Australia is the world's second-biggest gold producer and at one time in the past year had looked as if it might displace China as the world No.1.

U.K.-based precious metals consultancy, Metals Focus, puts Russian output marginally higher than that of Australia, or at least it did in 2020; we are waiting for the latest report from the firm.

According to the firm, Australian gold production in 2021 totaled 315 tonnes or 10.1 million ounces. This was lower than the peak production levels recorded in 2019 and 2020. The consultancy put local gold output for the first half of the 2021 year slightly ahead of China, but this was not sustained later in the year, so according to Surbiton's figures, Australia remains in second place globally.

Dr. Sandra Close, a director of Surbiton Associates, said, "Compared with 2020, Australian gold production in 2021 declined by 12 tonnes or four percent. There are a number of factors which have contributed to the fall, many of which are a result of the pandemic."

Close also said, "Although the gold producers continued to operate extraordinarily well under the circumstances, the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic have had an increasing impact. Personnel shortages and burn-out have been taking a toll and during 2021, production has been negatively affected."

Australian gold producers also faced some logistical issues in 2021. Close noted that this appears to have contributed to the lower overall gold production for the 2021 year.

"A consequence of the shortage of haul truck drivers is that there has been a restricted supply of higher-grade ore at some processing plants," Dr. Close said. "This has placed a greater reliance on the treatment of lower grade stockpiled material."

On the industry's future, Close said, "Despite the Covid problems, exploration activity for gold, lithium minerals, rare earths, and base metals, continues apace. Activity in the mining and resources industry is the strongest I've seen for years. A steady stream of announcements continues to flow into the Australian Securities Exchange, including reports on new discoveries, drilling results, capital raisings, and initial public offerings."

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