It is impossible to know the exact date that humans first began to mine gold, but some of the oldest known gold artifacts were found in the Varna Necropolis in Bulgaria. The graves of the necropolis were built between 4700 and 4200 BC, indicating that gold mining could be at least 7000 years old. A group of German and Georgian archaeologists claims the Sakdrisi site in southern Georgia, dating to the 3rd or 4th millennium BC, may be the world's oldest known gold mine.
Bronze age gold objects are plentiful, especially in Ireland and Spain, and there are several well known possible sources. Romans used hydraulic mining methods, such as hushing and ground sluicing on a large scale to extract gold from extensive alluvial (loose sediment) deposits, such as those at Las Medulas. Mining was under the control of the state but the mines may have been leased to civilian contractors some time later. The gold served as the primary medium of exchange within the empire, and was an important motive in the Roman invasion of Britain by Claudius in the first century AD, although there is only one known Roman gold mine at Dolaucothi in west Wales. Gold was a prime motivation for the campaign in Dacia when the Romans invaded Transylvania in what is now modern Romania in the second century AD. The legions were led by the emperor Trajan, and their exploits are shown on Trajan's Column in Rome and the several reproductions of the column elsewhere (such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London). Under the Eastern Roman Empire Emperor Justinian's rule, gold was mined in the Balkans, Anatolia, Armenia, Egypt, and Nubia.
In the area of the Kolar Gold Fields in Bangarpet Taluk, Kolar District of Karnataka state, India, gold was first mined prior to the 2nd and 3rd century AD by digging small pits. (Golden objects found in Harappa and Mohenjo-daro have been traced to Kolar through the analysis of impurities — the impurities include 11% silver concentration, found only in KGF ore.) The Champion reef at the Kolar gold fields was mined to a depth of 50 metres (160 ft) during the Gupta period in the fifth century AD. During the Chola period in the 9th and 10th century AD, the scale of the operation grew. The metal continued to be mined by the eleventh century kings of South India, the Vijayanagara Empire from 1336 to 1560, and later by Tipu Sultan, the king of Mysore state and the British. It is estimated that the total gold production in Karnataka to date is 1000 tons.
During the 19th century, numerous gold rushes in remote regions around the globe caused large migrations of miners, such as the California Gold Rush of 1849, the Victorian Gold Rush, and the Klondike Gold Rush. The discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand led to the Second Boer War and ultimately the founding of South Africa.
The Carlin Trend of Nevada, U.S., was discovered in 1961. Official estimates indicate that total world gold production since the beginning of civilization has been around 6,109,928,000 troy ounces (190,040.0 t) and total gold production in Nevada is 2.5% of that, ranking Nevada as one of the Earth's primary gold producing regions.
As of 2017, the world's largest gold producer by far was China with 429.4 tonnes in that year. The second-largest producer, Australia, mined 289.0 tonnes in the same year, followed by Russia with 273 tonnes.
Despite the decreasing gold content of ores, the production is increasing. This can be achieved with industrial installations, and new process, like hydrometallurgy.
Placer mining is the technique by which gold that has accumulated in a placer deposit is extracted. Placer deposits are composed of relatively loose material that makes tunneling difficult, and so most means of extracting it involve the use of water or dredging.
Gold panning is mostly a manual technique of separating gold from other materials. Wide, shallow pans are filled with sand and gravel that may contain gold. The pan is submerged in water and shaken, sorting the gold from the gravel and other material. As gold is much denser than rock, it quickly settles to the bottom of the pan. The panning material is usually removed from stream beds, often at the inside turn in the stream, or from the bedrock shelf of the stream, where the density of gold allows it to concentrate, a type called placer deposits.
Gold panning is the easiest and quickest technique for searching for gold, but is not commercially viable for extracting gold from large deposits, except where labor costs are very low or gold traces are substantial. Panning is often marketed as a tourist attraction on former gold fields. Before large production methods are used, a new source must be identified and panning is useful to identify placer gold deposits to be evaluated for commercial viability.
Using a sluice box to extract gold from placer deposits has long been a very common practice in prospecting and small-scale mining. A sluice box is essentially a man made channel with riffles set in the bottom. The riffles are designed to create dead zones in the current to allow gold to drop out of suspension. The box is placed in the stream to channel water flow. Gold-bearing material is placed at the top of the box. The material is carried by the current through the volt where gold and other dense material settles out behind the riffles. Less dense material flows out of the box as tailings.
Larger commercial placer mining operations employ screening plants, or trommels, to remove the larger alluvial materials such as boulders and gravel, before concentrating the remainder in a sluice box or jig plant. These operations typically include diesel powered, earth moving equipment, including excavators, bulldozers, wheel loaders, and rock trucks.
Although this method has largely been replaced by modern methods, some dredging is done by small-scale miners using suction dredges. These are small machines that float on the water and are usually operated by one or two people. A suction dredge consists of a sluice box supported by pontoons, attached to a suction hose which is controlled by a miner working beneath the water.
State dredging permits in many of the United States gold dredging areas specify a seasonal time period and area closures to avoid conflicts between dredgers and the spawning time of fish populations. Some states, such as Montana, require an extensive permitting procedure, including permits from the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and the local county water quality boards.
Some large suction dredges (100 horsepower (75 kW) & 250 mm (10 in)) are used in commercial production throughout the world. Small suction dredges are much more efficient at extracting smaller gold than the old bucket line. This has improved the chances of finding gold. Smaller dredges with 50-to-100-millimetre (2 to 4 in) suction tubes are used to sample areas behind boulders and along potential pay streaks, until "colour" (gold) appears.
Other larger scale dredging operations take place on exposed river gravel bars at seasonal low water. These operations typically use a land based excavator to feed a gravel screening plant and sluice box floating in a temporary pond. The pond is excavated in the gravel bar and filled from the natural water table. "Pay" gravel is excavated from the front face of the pond and processed through the floating plant, with the gold trapped in the onboard sluice box and tailings stacked behind the plant, steadily filling in the back of the pond as the operation moves forward. This type of gold mining is characterized by its low cost, as each rock is moved only once. It also has low environmental impact, as no stripping of vegetation or overburden is necessary, and all process water is fully recycled. Such operations are typical on New Zealand's South Island and in the Klondike region of Canada.
Also called a cradle, it uses riffles located in a high-walled box to trap gold in a similar manner to the sluice box. A rocker box uses less water than a sluice box and is well suited for areas where water is limited. A rocking motion provides the water movement needed for the gravity separation of gold in placer material.
Hard rock gold mining extracts gold encased in rock, rather than fragments in loose sediment, and produces most of the world's gold. Sometimes open-pit mining is used, such as at the Fort Knox Mine in central Alaska. Barrick Gold Corporation has one of the largest open-pit gold mines in North America located on its Goldstrike mine property in north eastern Nevada. Other gold mines use underground mining, where the ore is extracted through tunnels or shafts. South Africa has the world's deepest hard rock gold mine up to 3,900 metres (12,800 ft) underground. At such depths, the heat is unbearable for humans, and air conditioning is required for the safety of the workers. The first such mine to receive air conditioning was Robinson Deep, at that time the deepest mine in the world for any mineral.
Gold is also produced by mining in which it is not the principal product. Large copper mines, such as the Bingham Canyon mine in Utah, often recover considerable amounts of gold and other metals along with copper. Some sand and gravel pits, such as those around Denver, Colorado, may recover small amounts of gold in their wash operations. The largest producing gold mine in the world, the Grasberg mine in Papua, Indonesia, is primarily a copper mine.
A modest amount of precious metal is a by-product of sodium production.
In placer mines, the gold is recovered by gravity separation. For hard rock mining, other methods are usually used.
Cyanide extraction of gold may be used in areas where fine gold-bearing rocks are found. Sodium cyanide solution is mixed with finely ground rock that is proven to contain gold or silver, and is then separated from the ground rock as gold cyanide or silver cyanide solution. Zinc is added to precipitate out residual zinc as well as the silver and gold metals. The zinc is removed with sulfuric acid, leaving a silver or gold sludge that is generally smelted into an ingot then shipped to a metals refinery for final processing into 99.9999% pure metals.
Advancements in the 1970s have seen activated carbon used in extracting gold from the leach solution. The gold is absorbed into the porous matrix of the carbon. Activated carbon has so much internal surface area, that fifteen grams of it has the equivalent surface area of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (18,100 square metres (195,000 sq ft)). The gold can be removed from the carbon by using a strong solution of caustic soda and cyanide, a process known as elution. Gold is then plated out onto steel wool through electrowinning. Gold specific resins can also be used in place of activated carbon, or where selective separation of gold from copper or other dissolved metals is required.
The technique using dissolution with alkaline cyanide has been highly developed over recent years. It is particularly appropriate for low grade gold and silver ore processing (e.g. less than 5 ppm gold) but its use is not restricted to such ores. There are many environmental hazards associated with this extraction method, largely due to the high acute toxicity of the cyanide compounds involved. A major example of this hazard was demonstrated in the 2000 Baia Mare cyanide spill, when a break in holding pond dam at a mine waste reprocessing facility near Baia Mare in northern Romania released approximately 100,000 cubic metres (3,500,000 cu ft) of waste water contaminated with heavy metal sludge and up to 120 long tons (122 t) of cyanide into the Tisza River. As a consequence, most countries now have strict regulations for cyanide in plant discharges, and plants today include a specific cyanide-destruction step before discharging their tailings to a storage facility.
Historically, mercury was used extensively in placer gold mining in order to form mercury-gold amalgam with smaller gold particles, and thereby increase the gold recovery rates. Large-scale use of mercury stopped in the 1960s. However, mercury is still used in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), often clandestine, gold prospecting. It is estimated that 45,000 metric tons of mercury used in California for placer mining have not been recovered.
While most of the gold is produced by major corporations, tens of thousands of people work independently in smaller, artisan operations, in some cases illegally. In Ghana, for instance, the galamseys are estimated to number 20,000 to 50,000. In neighboring francophone countries, such workers are called orpailleurs. In Brazil, such workers are called garimpeiros.
The high risk of such ventures was seen in the collapse of an illegal mine at Dompoase, Ashanti Region, Ghana, on 12 November 2009, when 18 workers were killed, including 13 women. Many women work at such mines as porters. It was the worst mining disaster in Ghanaian history.
In order to maximize gold extraction, mercury is often used to amalgamate with the metal. The gold is produced by boiling away the mercury from the amalgam. Mercury is effective in extracting very small gold particles, but the process is hazardous due to the toxicity of mercury vapour.
Gold mining can significantly alter the natural environment. For example, gold mining activities in tropical forests are increasingly causing deforestation along rivers and in remote areas rich in biodiversity. Other gold mining impacts, particularly in aquatic systems with residual cyanide or mercury (used in the recovery of gold from ore), can be highly toxic to people and wildlife even at relatively low concentrations.
However, there are clear moves by many in the non-governmental organization community to encourage more environmentally friendly and sustainable business practices in the mining industry. The primary way this is being achieved is via the promotion of so-called 'clean' or 'ethical' gold. The aim is to get all end users/retailers of gold to adhere to set of principles that encourage sustainable mining. Campaigns such as 'No Dirty Gold' are driving the message that the mining industry is harmful (for the reasons noted above), and so must be cleaned up. Also, NGOs are urging the industry and consumers to buy sustainably produced gold. Human Rights Watch produced a report that outlines some of challenges faced globally, noting that: "Thousands of children in the Philippines risk their lives every day mining gold. Children work in unstable 25-meter-deep pits that could collapse at any moment. They mine gold underwater, along the shore, or in rivers, with oxygen tubes in their mouths. They also process gold with mercury, a toxic metal, risking irreversible health damage from mercury poisoning." Along with many other reports and articles, this has had the effect of spurring retailers and industry bodies to move toward sustainable gold. Indeed, the World Jewellery Confederation insists that it does all it can to "Deliver a Sustainable and Responsible Jewellery Industry." Likewise, the use of so-called Fairtrade gold is growing; with businesses moving over to, or at least offering, this option at both retail and wholesale levels.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has set noise exposure limits for those within the mining industry. These noise exposure guidelines state that the "Permissible Exposure Level" (PEL) of noise is 90 dBA as an 8-hour time-weighted-average.  Mine workers exposed to a time-weighted average of at least 85 dBA fall into the "Action Level" in which workers with exposures exceeding that level are placed into a hearing conservation program. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has examined noise exposures of gold mine workers. One study found that gold mine workers noise exposures ranged from 165-261% of the MSHA PEL.  Haul truck operators, load-haul-dump operators, single boom drill operators, and roof bolter operators represented the occupations with the highest noise exposures within gold mines. 
Gold mining by country:
Acacia Mining (formerly African Barrick Gold plc) is a gold mining business operating in Tanzania, with exploration properties in Kenya, Burkina Faso and Mali. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. Acacia's majority shareholder is Barrick Gold, which owns 63.9% of the company.Bau, Sarawak
Bau is a gold mining town in the Kuching Division of Sarawak, Malaysia.Centamin
Centamin plc (LSE: CEY, TSX: CEE) is a gold mining company focused on the Arabian-Nubian Shield. It has offices in London, UK; Mount Pleasant, Western Australia; and Alexandria, Egypt. Its registered office is in Jersey. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.Economy of Suriname
Suriname was ranked the 124th safest investment destination in the world in the March 2011 Euromoney Country Risk rankings.Gibralter Hill
Gibralter Hill (also known as Gibraltar Hill) is a hill near Grahamstown, New South Wales, Australia.Gold Country
The Gold Country (also known as Mother Lode Country) is a historic region in the northern portion of the U.S. State of California, that is primarily on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. It is famed for the mineral deposits and gold mines that attracted waves of immigrants, known as the 49ers, during the 1849 California Gold Rush.Gold Rush (TV series)
Gold Rush (titled Gold Rush: Alaska for the first season) is a reality television series that airs on Discovery and its affiliates worldwide. The series follows the placer gold mining efforts of various family-run mining companies mostly in the Klondike region of Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, although the prospecting efforts of Todd Hoffman's 316 Mining company have ranged across both South America and western North America.Gold mining in China
Gold mining in the People's Republic of China has made that country the world's largest gold producer by far with 463.7 tonnes in 2016. For the year 2007, gold output rose 12% from 2006 to 276 tonnes (9,700,000 oz; 304 short tons) to become the world's largest for the first time—overtaking South Africa, which produced 272 tonnes (9,600,000 oz; 300 short tons). South Africa had until then been the largest for 101 years straight since 1905. The major reasons for this change in position had been due to South African production falling by 50% in the past decade as production costs there have risen, more stringent safety regulations have been implemented, and existing mines have become depleted.
On the other hand, as of 2014 gold output in China had more than doubled since year 2000. In recent years, China's gold mining industry has received increased foreign and domestic investment, and project numbers have increased as more discoveries have been found. China produced nearly 300 tonnes of gold in 2008. It is also the only country in the top three where production rose in 2008. In 2014, production had increased to 450 tonnes and it was expected to reach 490 in 2015. The second-largest producer, Australia, mined 274 tonnes in the same year, followed by Russia with 247 tonnes. South Africa is now in the 6th position with 152 tonnes.
Important organizations include China Gold Association (中国黄金协会) and China International Mining Group (中国国际矿业集团).Gold nugget
"Gold nugget" may also refer to the catfish Baryancistrus xanthellus or the mango cultivar Gold Nugget.A gold nugget is a naturally occurring piece of native gold. Watercourses often concentrate nuggets and finer gold in placers. Nuggets are recovered by placer mining, but they are also found in residual deposits where the gold-bearing veins or lodes are weathered. Nuggets are also found in the tailings piles of previous mining operations, especially those left by gold mining dredges.Gold panning
Gold panning, or simply panning, is a form of placer mining and traditional mining that extracts gold from a placer deposit using a pan. The process is one of the simplest ways to extract gold, and is popular with geology enthusiasts especially because of its low cost and relative simplicity.
The first recorded instances of placer mining are from ancient Rome, where gold and other precious metals were extracted from streams and mountainsides using sluices and panning.
However, the productivity rate is comparatively smaller compared to other methods such as the rocker box or large extractors, such as those used at the Super Pit gold mine, in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, which has led to panning being largely replaced in the commercial market.Gold prospecting
Gold prospecting is the act of searching for new gold deposits. Methods used vary with the type of deposit sought and the resources of the prospector. Although traditionally a commercial activity, in some developed countries placer gold prospecting has also become a popular outdoor recreation.Hochschild Mining
Hochschild Mining plc is a leading British-based silver and gold mining business operating in North, Central and South America. It is headquartered in Lima with a corporate office in London, is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. The main shareholder is the Peruvian businessman Eduardo Hochschild.Mining in North Korea
Mining in North Korea is important to the country's economy. North Korea is naturally abundant in metals such as magnesite, zinc, tungsten, and iron; with magnesite resources of 6 billion tonnes (second largest in the world), particularly in the Hamgyeong-do and Jagang-do provinces. However, often these cannot be mined due to the acute shortage of electricity in the country, as well as the lack of proper tools to mine these materials and an antiquated industrial base. Coal, iron ore, limestone, and magnesite deposits are larger than other mineral commodities. Mining joint ventures with other countries include China, Canada, Egypt, and South Korea.Mining in Pakistan
Mining is an important industry in Pakistan. Pakistan has deposits of several minerals including coal, copper, gold, chromite, mineral salt, bauxite and several other minerals. There are also a variety of precious and semi-precious minerals that are also mined. These include peridot, aquamarine, topaz, ruby, emerald, rare-earth minerals bastnaesite and xenotime, sphene, tourmaline, and many varieties and types of quartz
.The Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation is the responsible authority for the support and development of the mining industry. Gemstones Corporation of Pakistan looks after the interests of stake holders in gemstone mining and polishing as an official entity. Baluchistan province is the richest in mineral resources available in Pakistan. While recently Sindh discovered coal deposits in Thar. Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa is rich in gems. Most of the mineral gems found in Pakistan exist here. Apart from oil, gas and some mineral used in nuclear energy purposes which comes directly under federal control mining of other minerals is provincial issue. Currently around 52 minerals, are mined and processed in Pakistan.Mining industry of South Africa
Mining in South Africa was once the main driving force behind the history and development of Africa's most advanced and richest economy. Large-scale and profitable mining started with the discovery of a diamond on the banks of the Orange River in 1867 by Erasmus Jacobs and the subsequent discovery and exploitation of the Kimberley pipes a few years later. Gold rushes to Pilgrim's Rest and Barberton were precursors to the biggest discovery of all, the Main Reef/Main Reef Leader on Gerhardus Oosthuizen's farm Langlaagte, Portion C, in 1886, the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the subsequent rapid development of the gold field there, the biggest of them all.
Diamond and gold production are now well down from their peaks, though South Africa is still number 5 in gold but remains a cornucopia of mineral riches. It is the world's largest producer of chrome, manganese, platinum, vanadium and vermiculite. It is the second largest producer of ilmenite, palladium, rutile and zirconium. It is also the world's third largest coal exporter. South Africa is also a huge producer of iron ore; in 2012, it overtook India to become the world's third-biggest iron ore supplier to China, the world's largest consumers of iron ore.Due to a history of corruption and maladministration in the South African mining sector, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe announced at the beginning of 2013 that mining companies misrepresenting their intentions could have their licences revoked.Newcrest Mining
Newcrest Mining Limited is an Australian-based corporation which engages in the exploration, development, mining and sale of gold and gold-copper concentrate. It is Australia's leading gold mining company and its operations have expanded beyond Australia, for example Indonesia, thus becoming a prominent international mining corporation. Newmont Mining Corporation initially started the company as a subsidiary in 1966. The subsidiary became Newmont Holdings Pty Ltd. in 1980 and in 1990 acquired 100% of Australmin Holdings Ltd. taking the current name.
Newcrest's primary gold and copper production in Australia is at Ridgeway (Cadia Valley Operations), the second Australian operation being the Telfer Mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Newcrest also operates two mines in Papua New Guinea, Lihir and Hidden Valley, and one each in Ivory Coast (Bonikro) and Indonesia (Gosowong). Past and present exploration was done in the Americas, Asia and Europe.
In April 2010, Newcrest announced it was in merger talks with Lihir Gold, a move that would create the world's fifth-largest gold producer, with a combined production of 2.8 million ounces of gold in 2009. In August 2010, the deal was approved by Lihir shareholders (99.86%), and by the end of the month by the national court of Papua New Guinea (PNG), clearing the way for the deal. Under the deal worth US$9.45 billion, Newcrest will give Lihir shareholders 0.12 Newcrest shares, plus A$0.225 per Lihir share. As of 2015, Newcrest was the world's sixth-largest producer of gold.Pará de Minas
Pará de Minas is a Brazilian municipality located in the state of Minas Gerais.Santa Bárbara, Minas Gerais
Santa Bárbara is a Brazilian municipality founded in 1704 and located in the state of Minas Gerais.
It is a historic town on the Gold Circuit of Minas Gerais, located ninety-eight kilometres from Belo Horizonte, in the centre of the Estrada Real. The bucolic landscape, with its churches, roofs and backyards at the foot of the imposing Serra do Caraça makes Santa Bárbara one of the most beautiful towns in Minas Gerais. Despite the current increase in economic development, it is a peaceful and welcoming town with simple and hospitable people who preserve their traditions and live an active cultural life.Yugarenok Airport
Yugoryonok is a disused airport in Russia located 1 km north of Yugoryonok, a former gold mining town. With the cessation of most of the gold mining activity in the area in the 1990s, the airport was closed.
Its concrete runway appears to be in decay. Its 2000 m runway length is a common indicator of Soviet Air Force installations built during the 1950s, so it probably had some military use. For geography see Yudoma River.