Since the 1880s, South Africa has been the source for a large proportion of the world's gold supply, with about 50% of all gold ever produced having come from South Africa. Production in 1970 accounted for 79% of the world supply, producing about 1,480 tonnes. In 2007 China (with 276 tonnes) overtook South Africa as the world's largest gold producer, the first time since 1905 that South Africa has not been the largest.
As of 2013, China was the world's leading gold-mining country, followed in order by Australia, the United States, Russia, and Peru. South Africa, which had dominated world gold production for most of the 20th Century, had declined to sixth place. Other major producers are the Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Indonesia and Uzbekistan.
In South America, the controversial project Pascua Lama aims at exploitation of rich fields in the high mountains of Atacama Desert, at the border between Chile and Argentina.
Today about one-quarter of the world gold output is estimated to originate from artisanal or small scale mining.
The city of Johannesburg located in South Africa was founded as a result of the Witwatersrand Gold Rush which resulted in the discovery of some of the largest gold deposits the world has ever seen. The gold fields are confined to the northern and north-western edges of the Witwatersrand basin, which is a 5–7 km thick layer of archean rocks located, in most places, deep under the Free State, Gauteng and surrounding provinces. These Witwatersrand rocks are exposed at the surface on the Witwatersrand, in and around Johannesburg, but also in isolated patches to the south-east and south-west of Johannesburg, as well as in an arc around the Vredefort Dome which lies close to the center of the Witwatersrand basin. From these surface exposures the basin dips extensively, requiring some of the mining to occur at depths of nearly 4000 m, making them, especially the Savuka and TauTona mines to the south-west of Johannesburg, the deepest mines on earth. The gold is found only in six areas where archean rivers from the north and north-west formed extensive pebbly braided river deltas before draining into the "Witwatersrand sea" where the rest of the Witwatersrand sediments were deposited.
The Second Boer War of 1899–1901 between the British Empire and the Afrikaner Boers was at least partly over the rights of miners and possession of the gold wealth in South Africa.
During the 19th century, gold rushes occurred whenever large gold deposits were discovered. The first documented discovery of gold in the United States was at the Reed Gold Mine near Georgeville, North Carolina in 1803. The first major gold strike in the United States occurred in a small north Georgia town called Dahlonega. Further gold rushes occurred in California, Colorado, the Black Hills, Otago in New Zealand, Australia, Witwatersrand in South Africa, and the Klondike in Canada.