Top 9: Global Silver Production by Country

The most recent estimates from the US Geological Survey show that Mexico took the top spot for silver production by country in 2016.

silver production by country

There are many factors to consider when looking at silver companies, from prices to management, but investors should start with some knowledge of the global silver production landscape.

Knowing which countries produce the most silver can help investors understand the logic behind the exploration and development decisions that companies make. For example, high production in a particular country might indicate mining-friendly laws or high-grade ore deposits.

In 2016, the world’s top silver-producing country by a long shot was Mexico, with eight others rounding out the list. Read on for a brief overview of those nine nations; production stats are based on the latest estimates from the US Geological Survey.

1. Mexico

Mine production: 5,600 MT

As mentioned, Mexico was the world’s largest silver producer last year — its output rose 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. The company produced 28.04 million ounces of silver in the first half of 2017, an 11-percent increase from the same time in 2016. 

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. The company recently sold its Camino Rojo gold-silver project in Mexico to Orla Mining (TSXV:OLA).

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. 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,NYSE:FSM) 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 with an output of 3,600 MT in 2016. 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.

Many companies in China are privately owned, but Silvercorp Metals (TSX:SVM) bills itself as the country’s largest primary silver producer. It has multiple mines in China, and most recently announced the sale of 1.5 million ounces of silver in the quarter ended June 30, 2017.

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 eight. 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.

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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-largest 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 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 by the Investing News Network in 2015.

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

Editorial Disclosure: Silvercorp Metals is a client of the Investing News Network. This article is not paid-for content.

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