Canada is selling off most of its remaining gold reserves, mainly by selling gold coins, figures from the Bank of Canada and Finance Department show.
The country held just $19 million US worth of gold as of last Monday. Through most of 2015, the country's gold reserves stood at more than $100 million US.
Finance Department figures show that Canada sold 41,106 ounces of gold coins in December and another 32,860 ounces of gold coins in January.
That left Canada holding 21,929 ounces of gold in its reserves as of the end of January — a "negligible" amount, the Bank of Canada acknowledges — worth $24 million US.
"The decision to sell the gold was not tied to a specific gold price, and sales are being conducted over a long period and in a controlled manner," Finance Department spokesman David Barnabe wrote in an email to CBC News.
"The government has a long-standing policy of diversifying its portfolio by selling physical commodities (such as gold) and instead investing in financial assets that are easily tradable and that have deep markets of buyers and sellers," he said.
With our gold holdings worth $19 million US as of three days ago, that suggests further sales this month, as the price of gold has been rising — up to $1,245 US per ounce today.
The figures don't say which coins Ottawa has been selling. The Royal Canadian Mint has produced pure Maple Leaf gold coins in a variety of denominations for more than 40 years. They've proven to be popular around the world, with more than 25 million troy ounces of coins sold since 1979. It also produces gold coins for collectors, along with gold bars and wafers.
Canada produced $5 and $10 gold coins in the 1912-1914 period, too. The mint began to sell off its stash of that vintage gold in 2012 and ended that program in early 2014, selling 30,000 high-quality vintage coins containing 13,000 ounces of gold. The remaining lower-quality vintage coins were all refined so the government could sell the balance as gold bullion.
Canada's shrinking gold reserves
Canada may be one of the world's biggest gold-mining nations, but the government of Canada hasn't been a big buyer of gold coins, or any other gold, for years. That's not too surprising, since no country now uses a gold standard to value and back its currency.
Year-end data from Finance for each of the last 10 years shows that Canada's gold hoard has been worth a maximum of $181 million US during that span.
At current levels, our gold holdings amount to less than 0.1 per cent of the $82.6 billion US that Canada has in official international reserves.
The U.S., by comparison, had 8,133 tonnes of gold (261.5 million troy ounces) as of the end of 2015, according to the World Gold Council, worth almost $300 billion US. That amounted to more than 72 per cent of its total foreign reserves.
Back in the 1960s, Canada held more than 1,000 tonnes of gold. But it began steadily selling off its hoard, and by 2003, the country had just 3.4 tonnes.
Now, Canada has less than one tonne.