Global Silver Mine Production Drops in 2016 for First Time in 14 Years

Silver’s Use in Solar Sector Surged 34 Percent, Posts New Record


(New York City – May 11, 2017) Global silver mine production in 2016 recorded its first decline since 2002, largely the result of lower by-product output from the lead/zinc and gold sectors.  Coupled with less silver scrap supply to the market, which posted its lowest level since 1996, as well as a contraction in producer hedging, total silver supply decreased by 32.6 million ounces (Moz) in 2016.  Moreover, new highs were recorded for silver’s use in the photovoltaic and ethylene oxide sectors, both growing and significant industrial applications for silver.  These findings, and other key components of the silver market, are discussed in World Silver Survey 2017, released today by the Silver Institute and produced on its behalf by the GFMS Team at Thomson Reuters (GFMS).

Silver Supply

Global silver mine production declined by 0.6 percent in 2016 to a total of 885.8 Moz.  A large proportion of the drop was attributable to the lead/zinc and gold sectors, where production dipped by a combined 15.9 Moz.  On a regional basis, Mexico registered the largest drop in production last year, followed by Australia and Argentina, yet those losses were partially offset by gains in Central and South America and Asia.  Even so, Mexico was again the world’s largest silver producing country, followed by Peru, China, Chile and Russia.

Primary silver mine production grew by 1 percent to realize 30 percent of total silver mine output last year. Lead/zinc mines contributed 35 percent of 2016 by-product output, followed by copper mines at 23 percent and gold mining at 12 percent.

Silver scrap supply fell to 139.7 Moz in 2016, a level not seen since 1996, despite higher silver prices.  The contraction was largely driven by lower Asian flows, due in part to lower industrial fabrication volumes.  Scrap supply from the industrialized world was also muted, as partial jumps in flows from the United Kingdom and Europe in general, offset falls in North America and Japan.

In other areas of silver supply, GFMS reports that again government sales of silver were essentially non-existent last year, while in 2016, delta-adjusted silver hedging by producers contracted by 18.4 Moz.

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