China has launched a fund that is expected to raise around $16 billion for gold-related investments, including developing gold mining projects, as part of the "Belt and Road Initiative".
The fund, expected to raise the target amount in three phrases, will be managed by Xi'an Silk Road Fund Management, a joint venture led by two large gold producers Shandong Gold Group and Shaanxi Gold Group, according to Shanghai Securities News.
Shandong Gold will be the largest shareholder with 35 percent. Shaanxi Gold will have a quarter share in the new business, with the rest taken up by financial companies including Western Securities and Industrial Bank.
Proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the "Belt and Road Initiative" is likely to involve major investment in infrastructure, and growing levels of trade along the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
The report said the fund will become the largest to focus solely on gold-related businesses, including mining and other activities involved throughout the gold sector supply chain, and is expected to look at investment opportunities in countries likely to be included in the "Belt and Road Initiative".
"One of the most likely areas to attract investment will be gold mine projects in the northwestern route of the 'Belt and Road Initiative', through mergers and acquisitions of listed gold companies and mining firms," a source who preferred to be anonymous was quoted as saying.
The move is also a reflection of robust demand for gold in India and Thailand in the next couple of years, the source said.
Officials estimate "Belt and Road" countries account for more than half of the world's gold production and 80 percent of total gold consumption, with China and India the two largest nation consumers.
China is the world's largest producer and consumer of the precious metal. The country's gold demand fell by 7 percent to 273 metric tons on a year-on-year basis between January and March, with jewelry demand falling by 10 percent during the period, according to the World Gold Council.
Roland Wang, managing director of the World Gold Council China, said there are believed to be 16 gold-producing regions and countries along the "Belt and Road" concentrated in Central Asia. Annual gold production in Uzbekistan, for instance, is the world's seventh largest with 102 metric tons in 2014, he said.
"The initiative will help the Chinese gold mining companies jointly explore the precious metal industry in those countries since they can offer technological, financial and operational advantages over other countries," he said.
"Trade in gold will play an important role in transactions by 'Belt and Road' countries."