Top Silver Production by Country in 2016

The most recent estimates from the US Geological Survey show that Mexico produced the most silver in 2016. Peru and China came second and third.

Map of Top Silver Producing Countries

While it’s perhaps most important for silver-focused investors to be aware of how the metal is traded and when its price may rise again, those interested in the metal would also do well to be aware of which country has the most silver.

Knowing which country has the most silver is important for a number of reasons. Perhaps most crucially, having that knowledge can help investors identify silver investing opportunities. For example, if an investor is aware that a country is a major silver producer, they might consider investing in silver companies working in that country.

A silver investor following that strategy would likely have at least a little luck. Case in point: Mexico was the world’s largest silver producer in 2016, and because it’s a mining-friendly environment, many silver companies are seeing exploration and mining success in the nation.

However, that strategy won’t work in every case. Some major metals producers are less hospitable to public companies, preferring instead to extract the bulk of their resources via state-owned companies. That is often the case in China, though interestingly Silvercorp Metals (TSX:SVM) bills itself as the country’s largest primary silver producer.

All in all, those factors make it worth investors’ while to look at which country has the most silver. Here’s a brief overview of the 10 top silver-producing countries of 2016, based on the latest estimates from the US Geological Survey.

1. Mexico

Mine production: 5,600 MT

Mexico remained the world’s largest silver producer in 2016, with its output rising 230 MT from 2015 to hit 5,600 MT.

The country is home to Fresnillo (LSE:FRES), one of the most productive silver companies in the world. Fresnillo extracts silver and gold at six different mines in Mexico, and has several other projects in various stages of development. Last month, the company released its Q4 2016 production report, noting that it achieved record annual production of 50.3 million ounces of silver — that’s a 7.1-percent increase compared year-on-year. The company expects 2017 production to be in the range of 58 to 61 million ounces.

Goldcorp (TSX:G,NYSE:GG) is Mexico’s other large silver producer, and its Penasquito mine posted the second-highest silver production in the world in 2013. Like many silver mines, Penasquito primarily produces gold — silver is often coincident with other resources, and is regularly mined as a by-product.

2. Peru

Mine production: 4,100 MT

In addition to being the world’s second-biggest silver producer, putting out 4,100 MT in 2016, Peru features the world’s largest-known silver reserves. With 120,000 known MT of silver, the country has a massive amount of untapped silver potential that could allow it to move up the rankings in the future.

The majority of Peru’s silver comes from the Antamina mine in Northern Peru, according to Kitco. The mine is a joint venture between BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BLT), Glencore (LSE:GLEN), Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) and Mitsubishi (TSE:8058). While the mine produces more silver than any other in the country, it is primarily a copper mine, and silver is produced as a by-product.

Fortuna Silver Mines (TSX:FVI) is rapidly growing its silver production with two operating mines, one of which is in Peru. The company reported 2016 silver production of 7,380,217 ounces, 5 percent above its guidance for the year.

3. China

Mine production: 3,600 MT

Back in 2002, China was the world’s fourth-largest silver producer, and the Silver Institute described it as a “solid ‘mid-tier’ producer of silver.” Since then, the country’s production has steadily increased to make it the third-biggest silver producer in the world; 2016 output came in at 3,600 MT. The Silver Institute attributes a large part of this rise to China’s development of other mining operations — as of 2012, nearly 95 percent of Chinese silver production was a by-product of other mining projects.

As stated, Silvercorp Metals describes itself as China’s largest primary silver producer. It has multiple mines in China, and most recently announced that its silver production for the first three quarters of the 2017 fiscal year was above guidance by 2 percent.

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4. Chile

Mine production: 1,500 MT

There’s a pronounced difference between the amount of silver produced by the top three global producers and the countries that fill in the rest of the top nine. Case in point: Chile sits in fourth place and produced 1,500 MT of silver in 2016, an increase from 1,380 MT in 2015. That rise boosted Chile from fifth-largest silver producer in the world to fourth largest.

Encouragingly, it looks like more increases could occur in the future — in 2015, the country’s Economic Development Agency announced a new program aimed at increasing the country’s mining production by raising energy efficiency and cutting costs. For the next several years, officials will discuss a plan that should increase the country’s competitiveness through 2035.

5. Australia

Mine production: 1,400 MT

Mines in Australia churned out 1,400 MT of silver in 2016, a slight decrease from 1,430 MT in 2015. That decline positioned the country as the fifth-largest silver producer in the world. That said, silver mining has a rich history in Australia, and BHP Billiton began there as a silver operation in the 1920s.

Today, BHP Billiton is a multinational mining company with projects located around the world. It remains the largest silver producer in Australia, and operates the Cannington mine in Queensland, which produces more silver than any other mine in the country.

6. Poland

Mine production: 1,400 MT

Poland’s 2016 silver output matched Australia’s at 1,400 MT, showing an increase of 220 MT from the previous year. Poland-based KGHM Polska Miedsz (WSE:KGH) is consistently one of the world’s top silver-producing companies, according to the Silver Institute, and the company could expand to become larger. Poland has the world’s third-largest silver reserves after Australia.

7. Russia

Mine production: 1,400 MT

Russia dropped one place to become the world’s seventh-biggest silver-producing country in 2016; its output slightly sunk from 1,430 MT in 2015 to 1,400 MT last year. The country’s silver reserves are unknown, but it has been a top silver producer for many years.

The country’s largest silver producer is Polymetal International (LSE:POLY). Polymetal dominates silver mining in Russia and operates four of the top five silver mines in the country. Last year, Polymetal produced 7 million ounces of silver, down 3 percent year-on-year.

8. Bolivia

Mine production: 1,300 MT

Bolivia’s silver output remained steady at 1,300 MT from 2015 to 2016, but Poland’s leap up the ranks pushed it from seventh place to eighth place. Luckily, there is room for the country’s silver industry to expand. Bolivia is home to several silver mines, particularly in the Potosi region, and the San Cristobal mine, operated by Sumitomo (TSE:8053), features the third-largest silver reserves of any mine.

9. United States

Mine production 1,100 MT

In 2016, the US produced 1,100 MT of silver from three dedicated silver mines and 37 base and precious metals mines. Its production sank from 1,190 MT in 2015. Alaska and Nevada produce more silver than the nation’s other states, and the largest US-based primary silver producer is Coeur Mining (NYSE:CDE). Coeur’s US projects are not silver focused, but the company does operate silver mines in South America and Australia.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on Silver Investing News on April 20, 2015. 

Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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This article is updated each year. Please scroll to the top for the most recent information.

While it’s perhaps most important for silver-focused investors to be aware of how the metal is traded and when its price may rise again, those interested in the metal would also do well to be aware of which country has the most silver.

Knowing which country has the most silver is important for a number of reasons. Perhaps most crucially, having that knowledge can help investors identify silver investing opportunities. For example, if an investor is aware that a country is a major silver producer, they might consider investing in silver companies working in that country.

A silver investor following that strategy would likely have at least a little luck. Case in point: Mexico was the world’s largest silver producer in 2015, and because it’s a mining-friendly environment, many silver companies are seeing exploration and mining success in the nation.

However, that strategy won’t work in every case. Some major metals producers are less hospitable to public companies, preferring instead to extract the bulk of their resources via state-owned companies. That is often the case in China, though interestingly Silvercorp Metals (TSX:SVM) bills itself as the country’s largest primary silver producer.

All in all, those factors make it worth investors’ while to look at which country has the most silver. Here’s a brief overview of the 10 top silver-producing countries of 2015, based on the latest estimates from the US Geological Survey.

1. Mexico

Mine production: 5,400 metric tonnes

Mexico remained the world’s largest silver producer in 2015, with its output rising by an impressive 400 MT to hit 5,400 MT.

The country is home to Fresnillo (LSE:FRES), one of the most productive silver companies in the world. Fresnillo mines silver and gold at six different projects throughout Mexico, and has several other projects in various stages of development. In April, the company released its production report for the three months ending March 31, 2016 and reported it is on track to achieve 2016 production guidance of of 49 to 51 million ounces of silver, and 776,000-790,000 ounces of gold. Its aim is to produce 65 million ounces of silver and 750,000 ounces of gold annually by 2018.

Interestingly, Goldcorp (TSX:G) is Mexico’s other large silver producer, and its Penasquito mine posted the second-highest silver production in 2013. Like many silver mines, Penasquito is primarily a gold project — silver is often coincident with other resources, and is regularly mined as a by-product. Silver production is expected to total 22 to 24 million ounces in 2016. 

2. China

Mine production: 4,100 metric tonnes

Back in 2002, China was the world’s fourth-largest silver producer, and the Silver Institute described it as a “solid ‘mid-tier’ producer of silver.” Since then, the country’s production has steadily increased to make it the second-biggest silver producer in the world; 2015 output came in at 4,100 MT. The Silver Institute attributes a large part of this rise to China’s development of other mining operations — as of 2012, nearly 95 percent of Chinese silver production was a by-product of other mining projects.

As stated, Silvercorp Metals describes itself as China’s largest primary silver producer. It has multiple mines in China, and most recently started production at its GC project in the country. 

3. Peru

Mine production: 3,800 metric tonnes

In addition to being the world’s third-biggest silver producer at 3,800 MT in 2015, Peru features the largest-known silver reserves. With 120,000 known MT of silver, the country has a massive amount of untapped silver potential that could allow it to move up the rankings in the future.

The majority of Peru’s silver comes from the Antamina mine in Northern Peru, according to Kitco. The mine began as a joint venture between BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP), Glencore (LSE:GLEN), Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.Band Mitsubishi (TSE:8058). While the mine produces more silver than any other in the country, it is primarily a copper mine, and silver is produced as a by-product.

Fortuna Silver Mines (TSE:FVI) is rapidly growing it silver production with two operating mines and landing positions in Peru, as well as in Mexico. Its Caylloma Mine in Peru produced 1.7 million ounces of silver in 2015.

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4. Australia

Mine production: 1,700 metric tonnes

There’s a pronounced difference between the amount of silver produced by the top three global producers and the countries that fill in the rest of the top 10. Case in point: Australia sits in fourth place and produced 1,700 MT of silver in 2015. That said, silver mining has a rich history in Australia, and BHP Billiton began there as a silver operation in the 1920s.

Today, BHP Billiton is a multinational mining company with projects located around the world. It remains the largest silver producer in Australia, and operates the Cannington mine in Queensland, which produces more silver than any other mine in the country.

5. Chile

Mine production: 1,600 metric tonnes 

Mines in Chile churned out 1,600 MT of silver in 2015, an increase from 1,200 MT in 2014. That rise boosted Chile from seventh-largest silver producer in the world to fifth largest.

Encouragingly, it looks like more increases could occur in the future — last year, the country’s Economic Development Agency announced a new program aimed at increasing the country’s mining production by raising energy efficiency and cutting costs. For the next several years, officials will discuss a plan that should increase the country’s competitiveness through 2035.

6. Russia

Mine production: 1,500 metric tonnes

Russia was the world’s fifth-biggest silver-producing country in 2014, but in 2015 it fell to sixth place as its output sunk from 1,700 MT to 1,500 MT. the country’s silver reserves are unknown, but it has remained on the top 10 list of silver producers for many years.

The country’s largest silver producer is Polymetal International (LSE:POLY). Polymetal dominates silver mining in Russia and operates four of the top five silver mines in the country.

Last year, Polymetal produced 7.2 million ounces of silver, up six percent year-on-year.

7. Bolivia

Mine production: 1,300 metric tonnes 

Bolivia’s silver output remained steady at 1,300 MT between 2014 and 2015, but Chile’s leap up the ranks pushed it from sixth place to seventh place. Luckily, there is room for the country’s silver industry to expand. It is home to several silver mines, particularly in the Potosi region, and Mining-Technology.com reported that the San Cristobal mine features the third-largest silver reserves of any mine.

8. Poland

Mine production: 1,300 metric tonnes 

Poland’s 2015 silver output matched Bolivia’s at 1,300 MT, showing a slight increase from the previous year. Poland-based KGHM Polska Miedsz (WSE:KGH) is consistently one of the world’s top silver-producing companies, according to the Silver Institute, and the company could expand to become larger. Poland is in a tie with Australia for the world’s second-largest silver reserves.

9. United States

Mine production 1,100 metric tonnes 

In 2015, the US produced 1,100 MT of silver from three dedicated silver mines and 37 base and precious metals mines. Its production sank from 1,180 MT in 2014. Alaska and Nevada produce more silver than the nation’s other states, and the largest US-based primary silver producer is Coeur Mining (NYSE:CDE). Coeur maintains projects in the US alongside other silver mines in South America and Australia.

At the end of April, Coeur released first quarter 2016 results wherein they announced silver production was 3.4 million ounces. Silver and gold prices led to an increase of 16 percent in adjusted EBITDA to $34.6 million.

10. Canada

Mine production: 500 metric tonnes

While Canada is home base for Silvercorp and several other silver miners, it does not produce an enormous amount of silver itself; that’s largely because Canadian companies tend to maintain projects in other countries. Even so, during 2015 the country’s silver production did increase slightly, rising from 493 MT to 500 MT.

Within the country, there are significant silver deposits in British Columbia, according to government reports, but the highest-quality metal comes from polymetallic veins that do not necessarily target silver specifically.

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