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Australian gold mine production declined in the third quarter of 2021, according to Melbourne consulting group Surbiton Associates, allowing China to return as the top gold producing country in the world. 

In the September quarter, Australia produced 77 tonnes of gold, six tonnes and 8 per cent lower than the June quarter of 2021. 

“With gold production figures now available for the first nine months of 2021, it appears that China has taken the lead again as the world’s top gold-producing country,” Surbiton Associates director Dr Sandra Close said.  

“Australia briefly became top producer for the first time, based on gold production figures for the first half of 2021. 

“It is a close-run thing as to which country will be the world’s top gold producer for the whole of 2021. 

“China has been number one since 2007, but Australia is now challenging for that spot.”   

Australian gold production for the first nine months of 2021 was just under three tonnes less than China’s production for the same period, according to figures released by the China Gold Association, with China producing 236.75 tonnes compared to Australia’s 234 tonnes. 

“Much will depend on gold output reported for the final quarter of the year,” Close said. 

“For some 30 years we have been compiling the most detailed gold survey for Australia and know that the December quarter is usually the strongest period of the year locally, but we do not know what the relative performance will be for both countries.”   

Newcrest Mining’s Cadia operation in New South Wales reported a decline in production of almost 2.7 tonnes of gold, due to having to replace and upgrade the SAG mill motor. 

Newmont Corporation’s Boddington mine in Western Australia produced almost one tonne less due to severe weather, shovel reliability and operational delays associated with the introduction of the autonomous haulage system for its fleet of Caterpillar haul trucks.  

Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville mine in Victoria also declined by around 0.7 tonnes, mainly due to lower ore grades,.

However, ore grades are still running at more than three-quarters of an ounce to the tonne, the highest-grade gold ore in Australia. 

Capricorn Resources’ new Karlawinda operation saw an increase of 22,000 ounces in the September quarter, as it ramps up production to a rate of more than 100,000 ounces per year.  

“The outlook is positive, with several projects currently under construction, and a healthy number of scoping and feasibility studies underway,” Close said.