The PACE and quality of new discoveries in the gold mining industry has fallen by 45% over the last four years, according to a leading consultancy.
The cost of mining new gold out of the ground has meantime hit new records, new research also confirms.
"With global drilling activity waning," says Glen Jones, Western Hemisphere Director for resource sector analysts IntierraRMG, "the next few years will continue the trend with fewer new gold discoveries."
Already slowing from the peak of 2007-2008, the rate of new gold discoveries fell last year by 45% from that level, says Intierra, dropping to some 220 million ounces.
Ore grades also fell, down to just 1.17 grams of gold per tonne of earth. That would make unearthing the newly-found gold more expensive again, as more tonnes of rock need to be dug up, crushes and processed to access their fine-gold content.
Barclays Capital's Christopher Louney meantime says that 2012 gold mining costs were the highest on record, rising globally by more than 13% to $673 per ounce.
That cost – which only counts the direct costs of mining an ounce of gold, and not the exploration, licensing or infrastructure needed to begin – in fact rose 17% in the first 9 months of last year according to the Thomson-Reuters GFMS consultacy, reaching a record $736 per ounce.