Local authorities in the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang on Friday announced the discovery of a gold deposit that could contain some 50 tons of that precious metal.

The deposit was found inside an already existing iron-ore mine in Hejing County after six years of exploration, the region's director of geology and mineral resources, Zeng Xiaogang, told the Xinhua official news agency.

The discovery raised the potential economic value of the mine, which also contains 187 million tons of iron ore and 1.5 million tons of zinc, to 100 million yuan ($16.3 million)

According to those responsible for the exploration work, some 2,000 workers will need to be hired to develop the mine.

In May, another large gold deposit containing an estimated 53 tons of that precious metal was discovered in the same province.

China, which extracted a record 403.05 tons of gold last year, according to the China Gold Association, leapfrogged South Africa in 2007 to become the world's largest gold producer and has retained that title for the past six years.

Output is still insufficient, however, to cover domestic demand for that mineral, which has risen sharply in recent years.

China became the world's second-largest gold consumer after India in 2011, a year in which its gold consumption rose four-fold to 761.05 tons. EFE