There are many factors to consider when looking at silver companies, from prices to management. However, 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 silver production in a particular country might indicate mining-friendly laws or high-grade deposits.
In 2017, world silver production decreased by 700 MT due to lower production from the world’s top silver-producing companies. Mexico was once again the world’s top silver-producing country, with nine others rounding out the list. Read on for a brief overview of those 10 nations. Silver production stats are based on the latest data from the US Geological Survey.
Mine production: 5,600 MT
As mentioned, Mexico was the world’s largest silver producer last year – its output rose 240 MT from 2016 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.
Strikes were an issue in Mexico last year. Two men were killed while on strike at Torex Gold Resources’ (TSX:TXG) Media Luna mine in November, and 1,000 miners were reportedly on strike at Primero Mining’s (TSX:P) Durango-based mine earlier in the year. It’s possible that these and other disruptions had an impact on Mexico’s overall silver production output in 2017.
Mine production: 4,500 MT
Peru was the world’s second-biggest silver producer, putting out 4,500 MT in 2017; that’s up 400 MT from the previous year. Peru also features the world’s largest-known silver reserves, with 93,000 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 production 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,NYSE:TECK) 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.
Mine production: 2,500 MT
China ranked third in silver production in 2017. The Silver Institute attributes a large part China’s rise in production in recent years to the country’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 a portfolio of producing silver-lead–zinc mines in China, including the multi-mine Ying District and the GC mine.