Bank deputy governor Guy Debelle said London had been the globe’s gold centre for «a few centuries», saying it made sense for the RBA to keep its holding in Britain.
«Outside of Fort Knox, literally and a few other places, most of the world’s gold holdings are in London because that’s where the bulk of the transactions are,» he said.
Every year, the RBA’s range of assets are audited for financial purposes.
Australia started the practice of physically auditing its London gold holdings, which it currently does every 6 years.
Weighing will be a key part of the audit, as any movement of the gold can result in tiny specks being lost.
The Bank of England has to make good any «lost» gold if the audit reveals less than the full 80 tonnes.
Dr Debelle said despite the physical asset, the RBA sought to make some money from leasing out the nation’s official gold holding.
«If you just leave it sitting there, unlike a treasury bond, earns no rate of return, whereas a [treasury] bond does,» he said.
«A way of delivering a slightly larger rate of return, it’s not that large at the moment but it’s positive, on those holdings of gold is to lease it for a period of time.»
The leasing netted the Reserve Bank $750,000 last financial year, which ultimately was returned to taxpayers.
Last financial year, about 10 tonnes of the precious metal was leased. In the early parts of the 2000s, almost all of it was being borrowed.
RBA governor Philip Lowe said it made little sense for the bank to hold the gold at its Sydney headquarters as it would require much more security and special holding facilities.
The gold forms only a small proportion of the Reserve Bank’s overall assets. Its single largest asset is $49.5 billion worth of foreign reserves.
Shane is a senior economics correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.