SYDNEY (Reuters) -
Australia maintained its number two ranking in gold output behind China in 2010 with production of 266 tonnes, as miners dug deeper to cash in on high bullion prices, a survey by sector researcher Surbiton Associates showed.
The increase marked a 17-percent, or 38-tonne, rise on Australia's 2009 total and is the highest annual output since 2003, according to Melbourne-based Surbiton.
China was number one with reported production of 341 tonnes and the United States is likely to come in as number three with an output of around 240 tonnes, according to Melbourne-based Surbiton Associates.
The combined 2010 production of all three countries in 2010 paled against output from South Africa in its heyday as the largest gold mining country.
South Africa produced more than 1,000 tonnes of gold in 1970 and for decades was the world's largest producer.
But for 2010, South Africa is expected to record output of only about 200 tonnes, Surbiton said.