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The Global Silver Mining Industry

One may presume silver takes a backseat to gold where interest in precious metals is concerned, yet economists and manufacturers highly prized this precious metal. Like gold and copper mining, the production of silver for commercial use and luxury remains an active global industry.
Quick Facts About the Silver Industry
  • Silver is not always mined directly. Often miners extract silver from ore or copper.
  • Like other precious metals, silver serves as an excellent conductor of heat. Automobile accessory manufacturers have used silver to help with defogging functionality on windows.
  • Silver was once considered a more prized commodity than gold in early civilizations. Wealthy people used silver for eating and storing food because they believed it healthier. Hence, the phrase "born with a silver spoon in his mouth" was coined to describe children in moneyed families.
  • As with the gold rush, the prospect of finding silver in the western part of the United States encouraged expansion and the mining boom.

Top Producers of Silver

The CPM Group reported approximately 735 million troy ounces of silver - over twenty-two thousand metric tons - mined globally in 2010. Of the countries responsible for this amount of precious metal, the top producers include:

  • Mexico - Mexico has a long, stored history with silver production. For half a millennium, Mexico has led the world in mining, accounting for a third of the planet's silver. China, the United States, and Canada are counted among the top importers of Mexican silver.
  • Peru - While Peru is known for zinc mining and production, Minerals Yearbook reports that the country exports nearly half a billion dollars in silver to trade partners in the US, China, and throughout the European Union.
  • Australia - According to the Australian Atlas of Minerals Resources, Mines and Processing Centres, about a quarter of the country's overall mining produces silver. Japan is Australia's primary trading partner in this industry, claiming nearly all of it.
  • The United States - Eighteen states from coast to coast produce silver to some degree. According to Bullion Spot Price, the demand for silver in the US has risen dramatically over the last decade, jumping from over four dollars an ounce in 2001 to about forty in 2011.

Challenges in the Silver Industry

A recent article in The Market Oracle suggests a risk in silver futures as investors turn toward precious metals for investment, based on the idea that gold and silver in particular rarely diminish in value. This said, it doesn't necessarily imply that mining for silver is at risk, but as investors find gold either too expensive or not accessible, silver will serve as a welcome substitute. Whether this would prompt a shortage in demand has yet to be seen, but with silver a useful product in electronics and other industries, as well as a luxury item, it stands to reason production will continue in the countries that most rely upon this metal.

by Kathryn Lively


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