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Gold is flying high but getting harder to mine
By Alistair MacDonald
The Wall Street Journal
Sunday, August 16, 2020
Gold miners are riding high as the metal trades at record prices, but digging it out of the ground is getting harder.
Gold is among the rarest metals in the earth's crust and much of the easier-to-get ore has already been mined. What is left is harder to find and more expensive to extract, miners say.
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While that isn't an immediate worry, with gold prices hitting $2,000 an ounce for the first time this month, miners face the longer-term prospect of higher costs and drilling in less hospitable places. A sharp selloff in gold this week also reminded companies that high prices can’t be taken for granted.
Gold prices are up around 28% this year. Miners have used the rally to pay down debt and increase dividends, rather than start new projects, with executives wary of repeating their costly overexpansion during the last big run-up in prices.
"We are definitely past peak gold," said Mark Bristow, chief executive of Barrick Gold Corp., the world's second-largest gold miner by market capitalization. He estimates that the new metal added to miners' reserves since 2000 replaces only half of the gold they mined in that period.
Miners are spending less money on finding new gold, with the industry's exploration budget at $4.44 billion last year, 63% lower than its record high in 2012, according to Australia-based Minex Consulting. ...
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