Photograph by Sergio Dionisio/Bloomberg
High-quality gold deposits are getting harder to find. The industry has spent billions to dig deeper underground or to open mines in politically volatile countries or remote regions, such as Barrick Gold's mine at the top of the Andes. Open-pit mines often crush and chemically treat one ton of rock to get a gram of gold, says Morningstar equity analyst Joung Park. Higher gold prices mean these projects can pay off, but the biggest beneficiaries are skilled geologists and mine workers, who have seen wages skyrocket. Graduates of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology now earn more than those of Harvard University. "If you have a geology degree, you're doing great," Park says.