China is now in pole position as regards annual global gold mining output. Much if not all of Chinese domestic gold mining output is refined into standard gold by Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) approved refiners and then sold through the SGE. A lot of recycled gold in China also flows through the same refineries. As of 2013, there were at least 35 refiners across China accredited by the SGE to deliver gold ‘Ingots’ (bars of weights 12.5 kg, 3 kg and 1 kg) on the Exchange. The list is probably longer now, and although the sheer scale of the Chinese gold refining sector is hard to keep track of, you get the picture as to its size.
It was therefore surprising that recently, while working on a particular task that required images of gold bars produced by Chinese refiners, I found that the selection of Chinese branded gold bar images on ‘the web’ (i.e. Google.com) seemed extremely limited. As it turns out, there are many many images of Chinese brand gold bars, you just need to know how and where to look. Nearly all of these images have never been seen before in “Western search engines”.
Who makes the most bars – The Top Refiners
Some of the large Chinese gold refineries are owned by, or affiliated with, large Chinese gold mining companies. My first approach was to determine the largest gold mining companies in China. These gold mining companies are:
- China National Gold Group Corporation, also known as China Gold or CNG. CNG’s major gold mining asset is Zhongjin Gold. CNG also has a 39% stake in “China Gold International Resources Corporation” which is basically its international arm (it also mines gold in China).
The 3 next biggest Chinese gold mining companies are as follows. I’m not sure about how they rank in terms of positions 2-4, but probably in this order:
- Zhaojin Mining which is owned by Shandong Zhaojin Gold Group (not the same entity as Shandong Gold Group)
- Zhongyuan Gold Smelter of Zhongjin Gold Corporation, Sanmenxia City [owned by China Gold Corp]
- Zijin Mining Group Company, Shanghang
- Shandong Gold Mining Company, Laizhou City
- Shandong Zhaojin Gold and Silver Refinery Company, Zhaoyuan City
There are 9 Chinese gold refineries accredited to the London Bullion Market Association’s (LBMA) Good Delivery List for gold. This list, which is analogous to an A-List, includes gold refiners around the world which produce large gold bars (400 oz), and whose production meets the very high quality standards laid down by the LBMA. Only Japan, with 11 gold refineries on the LBMA list, has a higher number than China. Russia has 8 of its gold refineries on the LBMA gold list. The above refineries of Zhongyuan, Zijin, Shandong Gold, and Shandong Zhaojin are on this LBMA Good Delivery list.
Cross-referencing these names with a list such as the top refinery suppliers of gold bars to the Shanghai Gold Exchange (see table below) also validates that the refineries of (Henan) Zhongyuan, Zijin Mining, Shandong Gold, and Shandong Zhaojin are amongst China’s largest gold refiners.
Shanghai Gold Exchange – 2011 Top 10 gold refiners supplying SGE
The ‘limited results’ Search – Google.com
With 4 accredited refineries on the LBMA list, one might think that photos / images of the gold bars output by these refineries are easy to find. Next step is to see if any images of these refiners’ gold bars are available “on the web”. The short answer is that a few images are available (see below), but they seem to be very rare and not saved very widely ‘on the web’ (Google.com).
1. Zhongyuan Gold Smelter
LBMA bar mark description – “Current Bar Mark: Circular logo round Chinese character with CHN GOLD below.“
‘China Gold’ brand bars (i.e. Zhongyuan Gold Smelter bars) are not widely found by Google image search. The above image that Google does find is sourced from page 10 of a Gold Bars Worldwide brochure, which is titled “Shanghai Good Delivery Gold Ingots and Bars“, published by Grendon International Research Pty Ltd in November 2014.
2. Zijin Mining Group Company
LBMA bar mark description – “Current Bar Mark: Double crescent logo with ZIJIN MINING in Roman and Chinese characters. Circular assay mark with ZIJIN MINING in Roman and Chinese characters.“
This image is a ZIJIN ‘double cresent’ bar. Notice the SGE marking. Again, Google finds this image by sourcing it from page 10 of the same GoldBars Worldwide brochure here, as it only seemed to be found by Google.com at that source. The photographs in this brochure were actually supplied to Grendon by the refineries, so without this brochure, Google would even have one less source to use.
Note: if you look in the pdf in the above link, the Gold Bars Worldwide brochure actually labels this bar image as a Henan Zhongyuan bar which looks wrong. The double crescent insignia shows that it’s actually a ZIJIN bar, as per another Zijin bar on page 9 of the same brochure.
3. Shandong Gold Mining Company
LBMA bar mark description – “Current Bar Mark: Circle surrounded by TAISHAN in Roman and Chinese characters within a square comprising four stylised S’s.”
4. Shandong Zhaojin Gold
The only images I could find of Shandong Zhaojin gold bars using Google.com were these ones, which are on the actual Shandong Zhaojin Import and Export Co Ltd website
Notice the SGE markings. Notice also the Shandong Zhaojin bar logo is the same as the Shandong Zhaojin company logo.
The ‘Motherlode results’ Search – Baidu.com
The very limited search results above suggested a different approach was needed. Like a lot of people, I’d heard about the Google Chinese site http://www.google.cn, and its re-consolidation to operate from http://www.google.com.hk a few years ago, as Google scaled back its CHinese presence. I had also vaguely heard of Baidu.com, the Chinese search engine, but I had never had the need to use it before.
Zhongyuan Gold Smelter – owned by Zhongjin Gold
Zijin Mining = “紫金矿业”
gold bar = 金條
Shandong Gold “山东黄金”
gold bar = 金條
Shandong Zhaojin “山东招金”
gold bar = 金條
How does Google Hong Kong perform in comparison?
Searches for Zhongyuan Gold (China National Gold), Zijin Mining, Shandong Gold and Shandong Zhaojin using Google Hong Kong (English version) bring back very limited bar image results, which are mostly images from the ‘Gold Bars Worldwide’ brochures.
The Chinese equivalent name searches in Google Hong Kong (Chinese language) bring back reasonable gold bar image results for each of the 4 refiners above, but not nearly as many image results as retrieved from Baidu. For example, Google Hong Kong (Chinese version) finds the below Zhaojin image in a directory called http://www.zhaojin.cn/imageRepository. But Google.com draws a blank on this directory.
Based on this relatively brief overview, it would appear that Baidu provides the most comprehensive results for gold bar images of Chinese gold refiners.