Just five countries were responsible for more than half of all the silver produced in 2012. Silver-mining production increased by 30 million ounces or 3.96% to a record 787 million ounces in 2012, up from 757 million the year before. (1) Much of the increase was a result of silver being extracted as a by-product of mining for other metals especially lead and zinc. (2) The following five countries produced a total of 492.4 million ounces of silver, or 62.57% of the total.
Number 5 – Russia 45.0 million ounces
Russia narrowly beat out Poland for the fifth spot in the top five silver producing countries, despite the fact that Poland is the home base of the biggest silver-producing company in the world and is thought to contain the second largest silver reserves in the world. (3) Russia increased silver production 15% from the previous year. (4) Its production represents 5.7% of the total world silver production. Polymetal International continues to be Russia’s largest silver producer, responsible for a total of 20.5 million ounces in 2012. (4) The majority of Russian silver fields are located in the eastern part of the country, primarily in the Magadan and Chukotka regions. Russia has 102 silver fields with the average grade of fine silver in ore – 100 grams per ton. Dukatskoy field, which is located in the Magadan region, remains the largest silver field in Russia. (4) Polymetal International controls most of the silver production in the Magadan region, while its main competitor, wealthy business tycoon, Roman Abramovich, controls the majority of silver-mining in the Chukotka region. (4)
Number 4 – Australia 56.9 million ounces
Australia’s silver-production was 25.4% greater than Russia’s. Australia, with 56.9 million ounces, represented 7.2% of the total world silver production in 2012. (2) Australia’s silver is mostly produced from a silver-bearing lead mineral, called galena, with lesser amounts produced as a by-product from copper and gold mining(5). Silver mines are located in four of the six Australian States and the Northern Territory. (6) The State of Queensland boasts largest number of silver mines in Australia. Queensland is also home to the largest lead and silver mine in the world, the Cannington Mine. (7) The Cannington Mine is wholly owned and operated by BHP Billiton, a leading developer of natural resources and producer of commodities with worldwide operations. (8)
Number 3 – Peru 111.3 million ounces
Peru’s silver production was nearly twice as much (95.6% greater) than Australia, with 111.3 million ounces total for 2012. (3) Peru produced 14% of the world’s silver. Despite this increase over the previous year’s total of 110 million ounces, Peru slipped in the world standings, down to third place. Peru has been on slow slide since it was last number one in silver production in 2009 with a total of 123.9 million ounces. (9) Between 2014 and 2016, silver output is seen by the bank (Scotiabank in Peru) rising about 9.0% a year in Peru, as some new and expanded projects dedicated to silver production come on line, and as a byproduct of mines dedicated to producing other minerals. (10) Some of the world’s top silver producing companies have operations in Peru including BHP Billiton, and Pan American Silver. (9) Production is forecast to increase this year at several silver mines including: Compania de Minas Buenaventura SAA’s Uchucchacua silver mine; Volcan Compania Minera’s Chungar mine; and Xstrata PLC’s Antapaccay mine. (10) Peru’s mining sector has seen its share of criticism based on illegal mining, (11) ecological devastation of the Amazon Rain Forest, (12) and forced labor. (13) These activities are primarily associated with gold and copper mines. Organized protests in recent years have also been a major concern of the mining industry in Peru. (14)
Number 2 – China 117.0 million ounces
In 2012, for the first time China surpassed Peru to become the second-largest producer of silver in the world. (3) China’s production was only 5% greater than Peru, with China responsible for 14.9% of the world’s production of silver. Production was up 12.5% from the previous year’s total of 104 million ounces. (15) Major silver mining companies working in China include Silver Dragon Resources (16) and Silvercorp Metals, (17) both of which are Canadian-based multinational corporations. Silvercorp Metals operates multiple mines throughout the country, including four in the silver-lead-zinc rich Ying Mining District located in the central province of Henan. (18)
Number 1 – Mexico 162.2 million ounces
Silver production in Mexico increased 6 percent in 2012, up from 153 million ounces in 2011. (3) This is the third year in a row that Mexico has been the top silver producing country, since unseating Peru in 2010. (19) Mexico’s was responsible for 20.6% of world production. Mexico’s production was 38.6% greater than China’s in 2012. Goldcorp’s Penasquito mine, where silver is mined as a by-product of gold, lead, and zinc, was integral to the jump in Mexico’s total production. (20) Fresnillo, a Mexico-based precious metals company is the largest primary silver producer in the world. With multiple assets currently operating, the company’s total proven and probable reserves is 497.96 million ounces. (21)
Four of the 25 largest silver producing mines in the world are located in Mexico and three of them just began producing in the last six years. (22) Mexico is the pinnacle of the silver-mining world. This country is host to massive silver belts, including the infamous Sierra Madre belt that flanks the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range. Spain ran its empire for hundreds of years on Mexican silver.It is believed that about one-third of all silver mined in the history of the world has come from Mexico. The mining industry continue to explore and their discoveries have great economic consequences, as witnessed by 50%+ production growth over the last decade. (23)
There’s been very little change since 2010 in the top five silver producing countries. The biggest surprise is the falling of Chile out of the top five, down to number eight and just above the United States. The biggest declines in production were seen in the U.S. and Chile, which saw a combined fall of 7.4 million ounces (15). Russia and China continue to make steady gains in silver production, but Mexico will be tough to catch anytime in the near future.