The Silver Institute has updated its silver production data to reflect 2011 results. The top ten producers, as reflected by this data, are outlined below. There was a surplus in the silver market in 2011 as overall mined supply of the white metal rose to 761.6 million ounces (m/oz). However, silver produced from primary silver mines declined. Though a new company stepped into the top spot last year, that rank is still not held by a primary silver miner.
Silver production: 40.5 m/oz
Market cap: $9 billion
Based in Poland, KGHM is a major copper producer. In 2011, the company rose to the top of the silver producers list from the third place rank it held in 2010. KGHM’s operations include three mines in Poland. The company reports that on average only about 1.1 percent copper content is extracted from the Lubin mine, but the mine’s ore contains high silver content, averaging 65 grams per tonne.
Silver production: 39 m/oz
Market cap: $99.93 billion
BHP is the world’s largest diversified resource company and in 2010 it was the world’s top silver producer. Though BHP slid one notch in 2011 to become the second-largest silver producer, its Cannington mine in Australia retained its title as the world’s leading primary silver mine. Though production at Cannington has been sliding due to lower average ore grades, the mine supplied 32.17 m/oz of silver last year. It was one of only two primary silver mines that produced more than 14 m/oz of the white metal.
Silver production: 38 m/oz
Market cap: $10.2 billion
In 2011, Fresnillo also took a step down on the top silver producers list, moving from second place to third. However, the company continues to be the highest-ranking primary silver producer. Its largest asset, the Fresnillo mine in Mexico, has also experienced declining grades, but remained the world’s second-largest largest primary silver mine in 2011. Having produced 30.30 m/oz, the Fresnillo mine is the other of the aforementioned pair to have achieved more than 14 m/oz.
Silver production: 28.8 m/oz (estimate)
Market cap: $31.3 billion
Though Goldcorp’s primary business is gold, the company stepped up a notch from the fifth place ranking it held in 2010. This increase in production is largely attributed to the Penasquito mine in Mexico, which produces gold, silver, lead, and zinc.
Silver production: 21.9 m/oz
Market cap: $2.78 billion
On 2011′s list of top silver producers, Pan American ranks fifth. Though this is a step down from 2010, when the company ranked fourth after producing a record 24.3 m/oz, Pan American remained the second most productive primary silver miner. The company has seven mines in Peru, Mexico, Argentina, and Bolivia. In March 2012, Pan American completed the acquisition of Minefinders (AMEX:MFN,TSX:MFL), which allowed it to add the Dolores mine in Mexico to its portfolio of assets.
Silver production: 21.1 m/oz (estimate)
Market cap: $12.5 billion
Volcan is a polymetallic producer with operations based in Peru. The company’s position as the sixth-largest silver producer is unchanged from 2010. The Silver Institute’s calculation of the company’s production is an estimate that includes supply from minority subsidiaries. Up-to-date production or financial data could not be found on the company’s website.
Silver production: 19.9 m/oz
Market cap: $3.19 billion
Polymetal, a self-described precious metals miner, produces silver from mines in Russia. The company climbed a notch higher among the top silver producers in 2011 after ranking eighth in 2010. Polymetal categorizes its productive assets as hubs or stand-alone mines. The Omsukchan concentrator processes ore from the Dukat and Goltsovoye mines. Dukat’s 2011 production totalled 13.6 m/oz; it is described by the Silver Institute as the world’s third-largest primary silver mine in 2011.
Silver production: 19.1 (estimate)
Market cap: $1.65 billion
Coeur d’Alene is a primary silver producer that experienced rising production last year, allowing it to climb up from ninth place. Though the company describes itself as the largest US-based primary silver producer, its most productive silver assets are in foreign countries. Palmerejo in Mexico, which produced 9.04 m/oz in 2011, is the fifth-largest primary silver mine in the world. San Bartolome, located in Bolivia, produced 7.5 m/oz ounces of silver and ranked as the eighth-largest primary silver mine.
Silver production: 15.3 m/oz
Market cap:$10.19 billion
Buenaventura claims the title of Peru’s largest publicly-traded precious metals company. Its 2011 production figures include supply from minority subsidiaries. Having produced 10.09 m/oz ounces in 2011, the company’s wholly-owned Uchucchacua property is the fourth-largest primary silver mine.
Silver production: 15 m/oz
Market cap: $1.49 billion
Hochschild tumbled from the seventh-largest silver producer in 2010 to the bottom of the list in 2011. The company’s wholly-owned Moris mine in Mexico ceased production in September 2011, though leaching continued. Hochschild has a jointly-owned mine in Argentina, but the bulk of its production is from Peru. One such property is Pallancata, a joint venture with a subsidiary of International Minerals (TSX:IMZ) in which Hochschild holds a 60 percent stake. Pallancata produced 8.77 m/oz in 2011, making it the sixth leading primary silver mine.
Securities Disclosure: I, Michelle Smith, hold equity interests in Goldcorp.
Get Our Expert Guide to Silver Investing FREE!Download this FREE Special Report, When Will Silver Go Up: Is the Highest Price of Silver Still to Come?