Though the company only turned 25 years old in 2008, BarrickGold Corp. is the world's largest producer of gold by several measures of size.
It certainly produces the most ounces, with its various mines turning out 7.66 million ounces in 2008. It certainly is most profitable as well, with an operating cash flow of $2.21 billion in that year, seeing that figure 27 percent over 2007 in a time when most of the world's companies were contracting rapidly.
Barrick is pretty much a pure gold company. In fact, it turned down the opportunity to invest in a major gold property in Mongolia recently because it felt that too much of the property's value was attributable to copper rather than gold.
The Toronto-based miner, like most major resource companies today, gets its gold from mines in diverse regions around the world. Its first big mines, where it got its start 25 years ago, were in Nevada and it still produce quite a bit of gold from that state. (A little over 3 million ounces of its production came from North America in 2008, with most of that coming from Nevada.)
Mines on other continents
But it moved rapidly into South America as well, and today has production in Peru and Chile and is developing mines in Argentina and the Dominican Republic. (About 2.1 million ounces of production came from South America in 2008.)
It also mines gold in Africa and the Australia-Pacific region.
While many mining companies develop a "balance" in many parts of their operation -- base vs. precious metals, underground vs. surface mines, mining vs. refining -- Barrick works to achieve a geopolitical balance. Most of its mines are in stable political jurisdictions, but it also is willing to pioneer development in regions that may be more challenging, such as Africa.
Barrick currently is producing gold from 27 operating mines on five continents. It is developing several more, some as replacements and some for growth, from its in-the-ground reserves of 138.5 million ounces.

With relatively low operating costs, and huge reserves, Barrick is likely to do nothing but stretch out the amount by which it leads the gold-mining race.

Gold has been with us for millennia and is still an important part of our lives. For many -- an increasing number every year, both in the industrial world and the developing world -- gold forms part of their investment. Gary Dillard has been writing about gold and gold mining for almost 3 decades and has seen many changes in the world of the eternal metal. What hasn't changed, however, is the effect that even the word "gold" has on people. For those who choose to make it part of their investments, a better understanding of what gold is all about is important. To learn more, visit