2013 Top 10 Silver-producing Countries

Thomson Reuters GFMS’ World Silver Survey 2014, released last week, not only analyzes what happened in the silver market in 2013, but also provides a list of last year’s top silver-producing countries.

For the most part, there are no surprises; however, it’s certainly worth taking a look at which countries made it into the top 10 last year and which were ousted. Below is GFMS’ list, along with a little background information on each nation.

1. Mexico

Mine production: 169.7 million ounces

With 2013 silver production of 169.7 million ounces, down slightly from 172.3 million ounces in 2012, Mexico was able to retain its spot as the world’s top silver producer for another year.

Commercial mining in the country has taken place for over 500 years. Indeed, from the late 16th century through the 1870s, the white metal was Mexico’s chief export, accounting for more than 70 percent of the material the country shipped abroad. Today, the country’s silver production remains strong due to the metal’s attractiveness to investors.

2. Peru

Mine production: 118.1 million ounces

Peru’s silver output clocked in at 118.1 million ounces last year, up from 111.9 million ounces the previous year.

The South American nation’s output is unsurprising given that it’s home to Hochschild Mining’s (LSE:HOC) Pallancata silver-gold property, one of the biggest silver mines in the world. Further, Pan American Silver (TSX:PAA,NASDAQ:PAAS), the second-biggest primary silver producer in the world, has two mines in Peru: Huaron and Morococha.

Other companies active in the country include Bear Creek Mining (TSXV:BCM) and Fortuna Silver Mines (TSX:FVI).

3. China

Mine production: 118 million ounces

GFMS places China’s 2013 silver output at 118 million ounces, an increase from the 113.1 million ounces it put out in 2012.

Interestingly, even though China puts out so much silver, the norm is for almost 95 percent of it to come as a by-product of extracting other metals. Those other metals are often copper, gold, tin, nickel, tungstenlead and zinc.

4. Australia

Mine production: 59.2 million ounces

Last year, Australia produced 59.2 million ounces of silver, up from its 2012 total of 55.5 million ounces. The nation has the largest amount of the world’s economic silver resources in the world, as per Geoscience Australia.

The organization also notes that the country’s first silver deposits were discovered in 1883 at Broken Hill. Ore is still extracted from the that area to this day, and Broken Hill has become the largest producer of lead, zinc and silver in Australia.

5. Russia

Mine production: 45.4 million ounces

Russia put out 45.4 million ounces of silver in 2013, up only slightly from the 45 million ounces it produced the previous year.

Like China, much of Russia’s silver is produced through mining other metals. Norilsk Nickel (MCX:GMKN), for example, is one of the country’s largest producers of the metal, but it’s primarily known for being the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium, as well as a key platinum and copper producer.

6. Bolivia

Mine production: 41.2 million ounces

Last year, Bolivia’s silver production increased slightly, hitting 41.2 million ounces, a 3.8-percent rise from 2012′s 39.7 million ounces. Like many of the other nations on this list, Bolivia has a strong history of silver mining — production began in Potosi during the colonial area. Today, the department of Potosi still hosts working mines, including Pan American Silver’s San Vicente underground silver-zinc mine.

Bolivia’s state mining company, Corporacion Minera de Bolivia, or COMIBOL, works with private mining companies on several projects across the country.

7. Chile

Mine production: 39.2 million ounces

Chile’s silver production also rose in 2013, jumping from 37 to 39.2 million ounces. The country has produced the white metal commercially since 1830, when a silver rush began.

One major mine in Chile is Escondida, which is 30-percent owned by Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO,NYSE:RIO) and operated by BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP,LSE:BLT,NYSE:BHP). It is the world’s largest single producer of copper, but also puts out some silver.

On the junior side, Mandalay Resources (TSX:MND) recently purchased Silver Standard Resources’ (TSX:SSO,NASDAQ:SSRI) Challacolla silver-gold project, located in Northern Chile.

8. Poland

Mine production: 37.6 million ounces

Poland is one of the few countries on this list whose silver production sank last year. Specifically, the country put out 37.9 million ounces of the metal, down 9 percent from the year earlier.

That’s interesting given that the country is home to KGHM Polska Miedz (WSE:KGH), the world’s largest silver producer. The company brings up that metal, in addition to copper and zinc, from mines like Lubin.

9. United States

Mine production: 35 million ounces

The United States’ 2013 silver production was fairly flat last year, coming in at 35 million ounces compared to 34.1 in 2012.

According to the US Geological Survey, silver was produced at three silver mines in the US last year and as a by-product or co-product at 39 other sites. Alaska is the state that produces the most silver, followed by Nevada.

10. Argentina

Mine production: 24.7 million ounces

Argentina’s name comes from the Latin word “argentum,” which means silver, so it’s fitting that the country is on this list. The nation produced 24.7 million ounces of silver in 2013, up just 1.6 percent from its 2012 total of 24.3 million ounces.

Significant silver mining operations have developed in Argentina in just the last couple of decades or so. Mines include Silver Standard’s Pirquitas mine, which achieved commercial production in December 2009.

 

Related reading: 

Top 10 Silver-producing Countries in 2012

Silver to Average $19 per Ounce in 2014: Thomson Reuters GFMS