Silver Investing News recently covered the world’s top silver-producing companies and countries of 2013, and if there’s one takeaway from those lists, it’s that silver is usually produced as a by-product.
That said, the world definitely contains some major primary silver mines. Here’s a look at the 10 that produced the most silver last year, along with some information about their owners and locations.
Production figures are based on information from Metal Bulletin.
The deposit was discovered in 1990 by BHP Minerals and the mine was commissioned in 1997. Full production started in 1999, and in 2013 the mine produced 966 metric tons (MT) of silver. Cannington now employees about 900 people and is an underground mine that uses both open-stope and bench-mining methods.
The Fresnillo site includes a flotation plant and an underground mine with an expected life of 11.8 years. In total, it employs about 1,600 people and has a capacity of 8,000 MT per day. In 2013, the Fresnillo mine put out 708 MT of silver.
Dukat is owned by Polymetal International (LSE:POLY) and is located in the northeast of Russia’s Magadan region; specifically, the mine is 38 kilometers from the town of Omsukchan.
Gold and silver production at the Dukat mine began in 2000 and is expected to continue until 2023. Dukat is just one part of a bigger picture, the Dukat Hub, which is one of the company’s original assets and the third largest silver deposit in the world. The hub was created in 2008 by the merging of the Dukat and Lunnoye operating units, which are located in close proximity and share many auxiliary services. Last year, the Dukat hub, which includes the Dukat, Goltsovoye, Lunnoye and Arylakh mines, put out 687 MT of silver.
The Saucito mine, another that’s owned by Fresnillo, is located in Zacatecas, Mexico, just southwest of the Fresnillo mine. Like that mine, the Saucito site includes a flotation plant and an underground mine that produces lead, zinc, gold and silver.
Saucito employs 999 contractors and has been operational since 2011. It has an anticipated mine life of 8.8 years. In 2013, the mine put out 360 MT of silver.
Fresnillo anticipates finishing construction on a site called Saucito II in Q4 this year. It also plans to increase development, “mainly in the west area of the Jarillas vein,” according to its website.
Situated in Lima, Peru, the Uchucchacua mine is owned by Compania de Minas Buenaventura (NYSE:BVN). It’s located at a very high altitude — between 4,000 and 5,000 meters above sea level — and last year put out 356 MT of silver.
Owned by Silver Standard Resources (TSX:SSO,NASDAQ:SSRI), Pirquitas is in Jujuy, Argentina. Like Uchucchacua, it’s about 4,100 meters above sea level.
Pirquitas has been in full production since 2009, and is an open-pit mine. It has proven mineral reserves of 48.1 million ounces of silver and 93 million pounds of zinc. At the mine, ore is crushed and treated in a gravity pre-concentrator before being processed in a conventional mineral flotation plant.
In 2013, Pirquitas put out 256 MT of silver.
The Pallancata silver-gold property is located in Southern Peru and owned by Hochschild Mining (LSE:HOC). It has been operating since 2007, though the veins being mined at the site were discovered in 1980.
In 2013, Pallancata produced 237 MT of silver. Ore from the mine is transported about 22 kilometers to Hochschild’s Selene plant for processing and is then sold as silver-gold concentrate.
Palmarejo, which is located in Chihuahua, Mexico, is owned by Coeur Mining (TSX:CDM,NYSE:CDE). It is both an open-pit and underground operation and produces silver and gold, employing 909 workers.
Proven and probable reserves at Palmarejo amount to 41.7 million ounces of silver, while measured and indicated resources total 57.2 million ounces of silver. In 2013, the mine produced 236 MT of silver.
9. Greens Creek
The Alaska-based Greens Creek mine is owned by Hecla Mining (NYSE:HL). It lies within the Admiralty Island National Monument, which is an environmentally sensitive area. The entire project is accessed by boat and includes an ore concentrating mill and camp facilities as well as the mine itself.
Greens Creek is an underground mine that runs on hydroelectric power purchased from a local utility company. In 2013, it put out 232 MT of silver.
10. San Jose
Owned by Minera Santa Cruz, a holding and operating company set up under the terms of a joint venture between McEwen Mining (TSX:MUX,NYSE:MUX) and Hochschild Mining Argentina, the San Jose mine is situated in Argentina.
San Jose has operated since 2007, and is mined using the cut-and-fill method. It produced 198 MT of silver last year.
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