Submitted by Ronan Manly, BullionStar.com
China is now in pole position as the world’s largest gold mining producer. 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 on the SGE. A lot of recycled gold in China also flows through the same refineries and is sold on the SGE. 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 a vast number of images of Chinese brand gold bars on the wider web, you just need to know how and where to look. Nearly all of these images have never been picked up before in “Western search engines”.
Who makes the most bars? – The Top Chinese Refiners
Some of the large Chinese gold refineries are owned by, or affiliated with, large Chinese gold mining companies. 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, in no particular order, are as follows:
Using the names of these gold mining companies, we can see which of them refine their own bars. Taking a look at some of the main Chinese gold refineries reveals that the following refining companies are owned by the miners, so its looks like they all refine their own gold bars, as would be expected:
- 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, with Zhongyuan, Shandong Gold, and Shandong Zhaojin in the top 3, and Zijin a bit further down, at least in 2011 when this table was produced.
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.
(Notice the bar mark in the image says CHNGOLD and the SGE marking).
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 not even have found this image.
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.”
During the test, Google didn’t find any images of Shandong Gold Mining gold bars, However, conveniently, a Shandong Gold bar is on the BullionStar site here, which Koos Jansen used to illustrate SGE bar markings.
Notice the circle, the SGE marking, and the ‘Taishan’ marking in the above image.
4. Shandong Zhaojin Gold
LBMA bar mark description - “Current Bar Mark: Triangle with two interlocking half circles and ZHAOJIN in Chinese characters within the triangle.”
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.
Note that since the publication of this article that you are reading, Google has started to find the images that you see here and the images listed below. That’s the beauty of the web, in that the more links to pages and images that exist, the easier it is for web bots to find and index said pages and images. Therefore, if you test Google.com now for these gold bar brands, Google is now finding more gold bar images of the refineries described here, precisely because they are in profiled here.
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.
The first port of call was to consult with Koos Jansen, resident China gold expert at BullionStar. Koos advised the following approach: “Get the Chinese names of the refineries, and search Baidu“. Seems pretty obvious in hindsight…:)
For non-Chinese speakers, there are 2 ways to establish the Chinese names of the refineries. The first is to use a refinery’s website. This works most conveniently with dual-language websites (since you can toggle between the Chinese and English names of the company to establish what the Chinese characters are), and it goes without saying that it only works if the Chinese refinery (or mining company) actually has a website, which isn’t always the case. The second approach is to use a Shanghai Gold Exchange list of SGE members names which includes their English names alongside the Chinese names (in Chinese characters). Such a list can be seen here.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the results of using this approach in Baidu are astounding compared to using Google.com. There are huge amounts of gold bar image results for the Chinese refiners. Here’s a flavor:
Zhongyuan Gold Smelter – owned by Zhongjin Gold
LBMA description – Circular logo round Chinese character with CHN GOLD below
Note that ‘China Gold’ operates retail outlets in China, through which a lot of its gold bars are sold to the public.
LBMA description – Double crescent logo with ZIJIN MINING in Roman and Chinese characters.
These Zijin Mining gold bar images were sourced from here
Baidu image search for Shandong Gold Group mostly retrieves gold bars for a brand called SD Gold, which is a ‘Shandong Gold’ bar brand:
To retrieve images for the Shandong Gold Mining Company bars with the “Taishan” design, you need to search for:
This image is sourced from Chinese gold site http://ccne.mofcom.gov.cn
, which is a Ministry of Commerce site called ‘China Commodities’ which looks like a reseller site, which contains various listings of different gold bars such asthis list
LBMA bar mark description - “Triangle with two interlocking half circles and ZHAOJIN in Chinese characters within the triangle.”
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.
With China an increasingly critical part of the world gold market, its gold bar brands (and photos of said bars) still do not appear to have registered more than a ripple outside the world of the Chinese internet. This can be explained by the fact that a) China doesn’t generally allow gold bars to be exported therefore few people outside of China have ever seen a Chinese gold bar, and b) Google has retreated from the Chinese web search market, but the dominant player, Baidu is not widely used outside of China.
With Baidu image search, the world of Chinese gold bar photos opens up considerably to the West. Likewise, Western media no longer have any excuse to recycle the same old Chinese bar images that seem to make an appearance in most articles about the Chinese gold market. And finally, although we don’t know that the future holds for the liberalisation of the Chinese gold market, if and when Chinese gold exports are allowed, expect some of the above brands to start appearing in a gold store near you…maybe.