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The World's Cumulative Gold and Silver Production

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From the Archives : Originally published February 27th, 2006
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Category : History of Gold

This is the first installment of a planned 7-part series:

Part 1 - The World's Cumulative Silver and Gold Production. Documenting the total amount of silver and gold produced since recorded history.
Part 2 - The Silver Deficit. Documenting the silver production/consumption deficit since 1942.
Part 3 - The Real Silver Deficit. Answering the questions of "How much silver has been consumed by industry?" and "In what potentially marketable accessible forms does it remain?"
Part 4 - The Illogical Performance of the Gold to Silver ratio Since 1848. Looking at silver and gold's production growth since 1848, as well as their shrinking ratio of comparative rarity, and comparing these to their market price ratio for that same period.
Part 5 - Why the Depressed Prices? A brief look at the amount of silver stockpiles held in the early 1900's, and how almost all of it disappeared.
Part 6 - What Happened in 1980? Did production increase? Did extraordinary amounts of scrap silver come to market? -- What to expect in any future stratospheric price rise.
Part 7 - The Future of Silver. An overview of silver's fundamentals with my own short and long-term outlook, including price predictions for 2006 and beyond.


I'm a relatively new face in the gold and silver bug community, and while attempting to conduct research of my own I found it frustrating that there did not seem to be any sort of comprehensive data source dealing with the subjects of silver and gold production and consumption. In an effort to change this, I've spent several hundred hours this past month perusing through thousands of pages of documents (namely, the Minerals Yearbooks (1933-2004)). It is my hope that this series of articles will serve as reliable reference material for all future writers, researchers, believers and skeptics, saving them all much time and effort better spent breaking new ground in the ever thickening plot behind...

Those precious two,
Of gold and silver hue,
"You missed them too?"
"Boy, how they flew!"

Cumulative World Silver Production

Source 1
USGS (United States Geological Survey) f/200 4/1251/2004-1251.pdf

"Total silver production from pre-history till 2001 is estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to have been about 1.26 million metric tons (Mt), one half of which was mined in the last 62 year period." (Page 8)

1.26 Mt x 32,150.75 ounces/ton = 40.51 billion ounces + 2.46 billion (production from 2001 -2005) = 42.97 billion ounces

Cumulative Silver Production = 42.97 billion ounces

Source 2 (multiple)

The History of Silver (3000BC-1493AD)

Time Period Annual Production Period Total
3000BC-600BC 0.75 million ounces Est. 1.8 billion ounces
601BC-1000AD 1.5 million ounces Est. 2.4 billion ounces
1001AD-1492AD 7 million ounces Est. 3.4 billion ounces
Grand Total   7.6 billion ounces

Bureau of Mines Minerals Yearbook (1493-1930)
(Billions of Ounces)

Total World Production
Time Span Total Amount
1493-1930 14.97B

Bureau of Mines Minerals Yearbook (1931-1993)
The Silver Institute (1995-2004)
(millions of ounces)

Year(s) World
Year(s) World
Year(s) World
1931 195.6 1956 222.4 1980 341.4
1932 164.9 1952-56 220.7 (avg.) 1981 361.6
1933 169.2 1957 231.1 1982 383.0
1934 190.4 1958 239.0 1983 392.0
1935 215.9 1959 221.9 1984 415.2
1936 250.2 1960 240.2 1985 412.3
1937 276.7 1961 231.8 1986 419.0
1938 267.7 1962 242.4 1987 445.1
1939 266.0 1963 250.8 1988 460.8
1940 275.7 1964 249.5 1989 474.5
1941 267.0 1965 251.0 1990 485.7
1942 249.6 1966 253.1 1991 503.9
1943 217.0 1967 266.7 1992 473.8
1944 186.2 1968 275.3 1993 453.0
1945 157.0 1969 290.5 1994 446.9
1946 129.0 1970 301.7 1995 483.0
1947 156.8 1971 294.7 1996 491.0
1948 173.2 1972 301.5 1997 520.7
1949 173.8 1973 308.0 1998 544.0
1950 203.0 1974 294.9 1999 548.5
1951 199.1 1975 294.3 2000 587.3
1952 216.8 1976 316.4 2001 611.8
1953 216.4 1977 340.3 2002 607.4
1954 214.2 1978 344.4 2003 611.2
1955 223.4 1979 346.0 2004 634.4
Total 5.2535B Total 7.7114B Total 12.1075B
Total (1931-2004) 25.07 billion ounces
Note: I noticed that reported production totals underwent slight variations as the years passed.

*Free World:

In the years 1939-1991, total world production numbers are not exact in nature due to a lack of data coming from the communist world:

  • Listed in order of estimated silver production, the Communist World consisted of: U.S.S.R, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, China, North Korea, and Poland.

Russia contributed the vast majority of the above group's silver production, mining an estimated 80% of their cumulative total in 1939 (25M ounces).

  • Russia's share increased to 38M ounces/year by 1970 (the others remain much the same)
  • Russia's share increases to 43M ounces/year by 1975 (the others remain much the same).
  • Russia's share increases to 46M ounces/year by 1979 (the others remain much the same).
  • Russia's share increases to 48M ounces/year by 1989 (the others remain much the same).
  • Beginning in 1991 Russia's share begins to decrease, and in 2004 they produced only 37.9 M ounces.

All these numbers are added to the above total, I just wanted to make this issue more clear. In truth, I wouldn't be surprised if the above world cumulative total should actually be a little less due to a possible over estimation of communist Russia's mining productivity, as is evidenced by their declining production numbers since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991.

Compiling All of the Above Data...

Time Period Production
3000BC-1492AD Est. 7.6 B
1493-1930 14.97 B
1931-2004 25.07 B
Grand Total 42.62 billion ounces

Cumulative Silver Production = 47.64 billion ounces

Source 3 (multiple)

From: "Silver Products and Production". Encyclopedia Britannica, 1974 Ed.

"Total world production up to 1970 was just under 30 billion accumulated ounces." (Let's use 29.5B)

If we add to this the 15.25B ounces that were produced since then (1970-2004) based upon the data from Source 2 then...

Cumulative Silver Production = 44.75 billion ounces

Source 4 (multiple)

The History of Silver (3000BC-1492)

Time Period Production
3000BC-1492AD Est. 7.6 B

Continuing from The History of Silver (1493-1900)

Time Period Annual Production Total Production
1493-1499 Est. 10 million ounces 0.07B
1500-1600 Est. 16 million ounces 1.62B
1601-1800 Est. 20 million ounces 4.00B
1801-1875 30 million ounces 2.25B
1876-1899 120 million ounces 2.88B
Total   10.82B

United States Geological Survey (USGS) Data (Link)
The Silver Institute (1995-2004)

Time Period Total Production
1900-2002 (USGS) 29.3B
2003-2004 (Silver Institute) 1.25B
1900-1994 (USGS) 24.8B
1995-2004 (Silver Institute) 5.64B
Total 1* (1900-2004) 30.55B
Total 2** (1900-2004) 30.44B
Combined Average
of Totals 1 and 2
*Total 1: Using Silver Institute data for years 2003-2004
**Total 2: Using Silver Institute data for years 1995-2004

Compiling All of the Above...

Time Period Total Production
3000BC-1492AD 7.6B
1493-1900 10.82B
1900-2004 30.50B
Grand Total 48.92B

Cumulative Silver Production = 48.92 billion ounces

Source 5:

Marion Butler estimated in 1999 (Link) that a total of 40.4 Billion ounces of silver had been produced since 3000BC. If you add to this the amount of silver produced between 1999 and 2004 (3.05B) you get...

Cumulative Silver Production = 43.50 billion ounces

A Complete Summation of the Silver Data

Source # Cumulative World Production
1 42.97B
2 47.64B
3 44.75B
4 48.92B
5 43.50B
Combined Average 45.556B

Average Cumulative World Silver Production = 45.556 billion ounces

Cumulative World Gold Production /minerals/pubs/usbmmyb.html

Pg. 88 Minerals Yearbook 1942 "Normally, 5 to 10 percent of world gold output is consumed by industry; the remaining 90 to 95 percent is used for monetary purposes." (Look under: Mineral Commodity Summary)

"Of the estimated 150,000 tons of all gold ever mined, about 15% is thought to have been lost, used in dissipative industrial uses, or otherwise was unrecoverable or unaccounted for."

Therefore, the average amount of gold consumed by industry or lost = 11.25% based upon the above sources.

Source 1 provides it's own percentage of attrition (i.e. lost gold), so this value of 11.24% will only be used to evaluate Sources 2 and 3.

Source 1 (multiple):

Click HERE to View the Pie Chart

From Above Chart (Link):

"113,571 tonnes historical production less 10,854 total attrition = 107,717 tonnes." (Year-end 1996)

Below: Production numbers obtained from http://www.

Year World Mine Production
2004 79.4 million ounces
2003 83.3 million ounces
2002 83.3 million ounces
2001 84.3 million ounces
2000 83.1 million ounces
1999 81.7 million ounces
1998 79.1 million ounces
1997 77.5 million ounces
Total (1997-2004) 651.7 million ounces

107,717 tonnes x 32,150.75 ounces/tonne = 3.4632 billion ounces

3.4632 billion ounces + (651.7 million ounces x 90.846%%*) = 4.06 billion ounces

*100% - 9.154% attrition (calculated from the text within the above pie chart).

Cumulative Gold Production = 4.06 billion ounces

Source 2: markets/supply_demand/mine_production.html

"The best estimates available suggest that the total volume of gold mined over history is approximately 153,000 tonnes, of which around 63% has been mined since 1950. The upward trend in annual production is now leveling off, due not least to a considerable slowdown in exploration spending in the late 1990s. Independent analysts are of the belief that mine output will remain flat for the next few years and may even drop slightly." (Year-end 2004)

153,000 tonnes x 32,150.75 ounces/ton x .8875* = 4.37 billion ounces

*100% - 11.25% attrition.

Cumulative Gold Production = 4.37 billion ounces

Source 3: ls/pubs/commodity/gold/gold_mcs05.pdf

"Of the estimated 150,000 tons of all gold ever mined, about 15% is thought to have been lost, used in dissipative industrial uses, or otherwise was unrecoverable or unaccounted for. Of the remaining 128,000 tons, central banks hold an estimated 32,000 tons as official stocks, and about 96,000 tons is held privately in coin, bullion, or jewelry." (Year-end 2004)

150,000 x 32,150.75 ounces/ton x .8875 = 4.28 billion ounces

Cumulative Gold Production = 4.28 billion ounces

Source 4 (multiple):

From: rg/discover/knowledge/aboutgold/gold_prod/index.html

"World production at this time climbed to 280 tonnes in 1852 and thence to almost 300 tonnes as Australia. Production was lifted onto an even higher place in 1886 with the discovery of the huge gold reefs... in South Africa."

Year(s) Yearly Production Total Production
1848-1851 Est. 260 tonnes 1,040 tonnes
1852-1886 Est. 300 tonnes 10,500 tonnes
1887-1890 Est. 400 tonnes 1,600 tonnes
Total   13,140 tonnes
Total (in ounces)   422.46 million ounces

Minerals Yearbook 1932-1933

Year(s) Gold Production
1891-1900 51.28 million ounces
1901-1910 182.89 million ounces
1911-1920 206.11 million ounces
1921-1932 231.30 million ounces
Total 671.58 million ounces

US GS Data (1933-2002)

Year(s) Gold Production
1933-2002 96,279 tonnes
Total (in ounces) 3.0954 billion ounces

GFMS Data (2003-2004)

Year Gold Production
2003 83.33 million ounces
2004 79.22 million ounces
Total 162.55 million ounces

Above Totals
Year(s) Gold Production
1848-1891 .42246 billion ounces
1891-1932 .67158 billion ounces
1933-2002 3.0954 billion ounces
2003-2004 .16255 billion ounces
Total (1848-2004) 4.35199 billion ounces

Since an estimated 90% of all the gold ever mined was mined after 1848 (Gold History):

4.35299 billion ounces/.90 = 4.8355 billion ounces x .8875 = 4.29 billion ounces

Cumulative Gold Production = 4.29 billion ounces

A Complete Summation of the Gold Data

Source # Cumulative World Production
1 4.06 billion ounces
2 4.37 billion ounces
3 4.28 billion ounces
4 4.29 billion ounces
Combined Average 4.25 billion ounces

Average Cumulative World Gold Production = 4.25 billion ounces

Ratios: What Nonsense they Reveal

We'll deal more extensively with the silver to gold ratio in Part 4 of this series, but just for fun let's find out what the ratio is in terms of the total amount of silver and gold ever mined in the history of the world:

45.556 billion ounces of silver/ 4.25 billion ounces of gold = a 10.7 to 1 ratio

Hmmm...This says nothing of the silver deficit and yet the ratio already reveals that at today's prices ($9/ounce vs. $540/ounce) silver trades at an 82.5% discount to gold, or conversely, it could be said that gold is overvalued by about 570% in terms of silver. Of the two ways of looking at the comparative price, I'll most certainly choose the former as I believe both silver and gold will be going up wildly in price in the coming years. Most would agree that neither gold nor silver is overvalued in terms of the dollar, so the only way to look at this situation is to say that silver is undervalued in terms of the dollar and gold. This means that I expect silver to far outperform any gains seen in the price of gold, even if gold doubles or triples in price within these next 2 years. The ratio will shrink, and silver will rise much faster, drawn up, as if by a vacuum in space, a vacuum created by the long-term market manipulation, short selling, and government dishoarding.

Don't believe me? Well then, you'll just have to wait until next time when we'll be stumbling into the "Silver Zone", and taking a much closer look at the much-lauded silver deficit.

Data and Statistics for these countries : Australia | China | Germany | Poland | Romania | Russia | South Africa | All
Gold and Silver Prices for these countries : Australia | China | Germany | Poland | Romania | Russia | South Africa | All
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