Economic gold extraction can be achieved from ore grades as little as 0.5 g/1000 kg (0.5 ppm) on average in large easily mined deposits, typical ore grades in open-pit mines are 1–5 g/1000 kg (1-5 ppm), ore grades in underground or hard rock mines are usually at least 3 g/1000 kg (3 ppm) on average. Ore grades of 30 g/1000 kg (30 ppm) are usually needed before gold is visible to the naked eye, therefore in most gold mines you will not see any gold. It is claimed, that all the gold that has been mined thorughout the history of mankind could be incorporated in a solid ball with a diameter of 27 metres.
Since the 1880s South Africa has been the source for about two-thirds of the world's gold supply. The city of Johannesburg was built atop the world's greatest gold finds. Gold fields in the Orange Free State and the Transvaal were deep and require the world's deepest mines. The Second Boer War of 1899–1901 between the British Empire and the white Boers was at least partly over the rights of miners and possession of the gold wealth in South Africa. Other major producers of gold are Canada, United States and Western Australia. Mines in South Dakota and Nevada supply two-thirds of gold used in the United States. Siberian regions of the USSR also used to be significant in the global gold mining industry. Kolar Gold Fields in India is another example of a city being built on the greatest gold deposits in India. In South America, the controversial project Pascua Lama aims at exploitation of rich gold fields in the high mountains of Atacama, at the border between Chile and Argentina.
The idea of producing gold out of lesser metals or other cheap substances has fascinated people throughout the centuries. Scientists, kings and charlatans obsessed with the secret art of alchemy accidentally invented practically useful materials (e.g. porcelain), while searching in vain for the philosopher's stone, which was supposed to turn mercury into gold. Modern science has since proven the impossibility of making gold from other elements via chemical reactions.
However, it is possible to obtain infinitesimally small amounts of gold by artificial nuclear transformations in particle accelerators. The gold isotopes produced would likely be radioactive. No economically feasible method to manufacture gold artificially has been found or published yet. The possibility of cheap man-made gold would have unforeseen economic and political consequences.
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