China will become the world's leading gold producer in 2008, with output reaching 300 tonnes, according to an estimate made by the China Gold Association on Tuesday.

"Recent years have seen a continuous drop in gold output in South Africa and the United States, traditionally big gold producers, while China maintains an annual growth rate of five percent," said Hou Huimin, vice president of the association, who believed that China was bound to take the No.1 position of South Africa this year.

Latest statistics by the China Gold Association show that the gold output of South Africa, which has led gold output since 1905, was 272 tonnes in 2007, while that of China was about 270.5 tonnes, 1.5 tonnes less than the former.

China has proven gold reserve of more than 650 tonnes in 2006, while another five gold deposits were discovered since the beginning of 2007, said Hou.

"With the improvement of exploration level and technology in processing ores, the output of gold will continue to increase," he said.

Gold production soared in China, where the output stood at 4.5 tonnes in 1949 and 100 tonnes in 1995. China was the fourth largest gold producer from 2000 to 2006.