This marks the second report by Metals Focus that analyses LBMA’s gold and silver country-of-origin (COO) data.

These statistics have been collected from every Good Delivery London (GDL) refiner, each of whom are required to identify the source of the metal processed using three categories: large-scale mining (LSM), artisanal and small scale mining (ASM) and recycling. LBMA started collating this data for 2018. This report uses a dataset covering GDL activity in 2021 and so, with four years’ worth of information, Metals Focus can dig a little deeper into this subject.

Before doing so, it is worth highlighting two points. First, for confidentiality reasons, LBMA provides data to Metals Focus that protects the identity of each GDL refiner. As such, where a destination region features fewer than three refiners the aggregated GDL data for that country will be combined with another region; South Africa and Australia are two such examples, with each included respectively within “Europe and Africa” and “Asia and Australia”.

Second, while there is considerable value in comparing LBMA’s COO data and Metals Focus’ own proprietary supply-side data, the statistics will not always match up, in part due to some GDL refiners reporting on a financial rather than a calendar year basis, but mostly because of the different treatment of gold and silver recycling, which is set out in the Appendix. In brief, Metals Focus’ recycling series covers recycled material that is: jewellery/silverware sold back by consumers for cash, end-of-life industrial products and unsold products that are returned by the supply chain. Although Metals Focus monitors all areas of recycling, several waste streams are not included in their recycling definition (see the Appendix on page 10 for more on this).

With regards to LBMA’s definition of recycling, this is set out in their latest Responsible Gold Guidance (version 9): “This term traditionally encompasses anything that is gold-bearing and has not come directly from a mine in its first gold life cycle. In practical terms, it relates to gold sourced by an LBMA refiner, or downstream intermediate processor, including end-user, post-consumer products, scrap and waste metals, and materials arising during refining and product manufacturing, and investment gold and gold-bearing products which are returned to a Refiner to begin a new lifecycle. This category may also include fully refined gold that has been fabricated into grain, Good Delivery bars, medallions and coins that have previously been sold by a refinery to a manufacturer, bank or consumer market, and that may thereafter need to be returned to a refinery to reclaim their financial value or for transformation into other products (e.g., 1 kilo bars).”

At first sight, it may also be surprising that LBMA COO data is not yet available for 2022, which, as touched on above, also relates to how accounting year-ends can vary across the industry, this ranging from calendar year-end to early/mid-year for reporting purposes.

Turning to mine supply, there are two points where Metals Focus and LBMA data can differ:

  • Metals Focus’ production data includes gold/silver recovered from mine produced concentrate. This is typically not refined in the country where the concentrate is mined. To be clear, this is far more relevant for silver where 84% of global mine supply was produced in the form of base and precious metal concentrate in 2021, against just 14% in the case of gold.
  • An estimated 21% of gold mine supply was sourced from ASM in 2021, but as the commentary below highlights only trivial amounts of ASM are captured in the COO dataset.