KGHM Mining Hun, located in Poland, has become the largest silver mine in the world among the top ten silver miners, based on reported production for the year 2021, although the ranking excludes the Sindesar Khurd mine of Vedanta, located in India, according to reports from Kitco, a precious metals service provider.
According to the classifications, only about 30% of the annual supply comes from primary silver mines, while more than a third is produced in lead or zinc operations and another 20% in copper mines. The polymetallic ore deposits from which silver is recovered account for more than two-thirds of the world’s silver resources.
Among the top ten silver miners in the world, KGHM Polska Miedz produced 41.9 Moz of silver in 2021, making it the largest silver producing operation in the world. Payable silver production was higher compared to 2020 (43 Moz) due to an increase in the amount of silver in concentrate produced by the company.
The mining center of KGHM Polska Miedz has mines in Rudna, Polkowice-Sieroszowice and the primary copper mines of Lubin, all located in Poland. In addition to copper, it is also an important source of silver, gold and other metals.
Newmont’s Penasquito polymetallic mine in Mexico is second only to KGHM Polska Miedz, consisting of two open pits – Peñasco and Chile Colorado – containing gold, silver, lead and zinc.
Penasquito is an open pit mine that uses a flotation and milling process, in two 50,000 ton per day sulphide processing lines and a 30,000 ton per day high pressure milling circuit. Penasquito has increased its silver production by 13% in 2021 to 31.4 Moz and ranks second in the list of largest silver producing operations in the world.
The Dukat silver mine comes third in the list. This mine is one of Polymétal’s first and original assets. It is the largest primary silver operation in Russia and Polymetal’s flagship operation. Silver production at Dukat increased by 3%, from 18.2 million ounces in 2020 to 18.8 million in 2021.
The Antamina mine ranks fourth, being a large copper-zinc-molybdenum-silver-lead operation, located in the Andes 270 kilometers north of Lima, Peru. The Antamina mine produced 18.2 million ounces of silver in 2021. The deposit is located at an average altitude of 4,200 meters. The owners are BHP Billiton plc (33.75%), Glencore plc (33.75%), Teck (22.5%) and Mitsubishi Corporation (10%).
“The mine is an open-pit mine, a truck or a shovel. A 302 kilometer slurry concentrate pipeline transports copper and zinc concentrates to the port for shipment to smelters and refineries around the world.
The San Julián silver-gold mine in Mexico is Fresnillo’s flagship project, becoming the fifth largest mine in the ranking. The mine produced 16.8 million ounces of silver in 2021. “The geological potential identified in the area so far may be sufficient to establish a new mining district in the future,” according to Kitco.com
The San Julián mine has two plants: a dynamic leach plant to process ore from the seams; and a 6,000 tpd capacity flotation plant to process disseminated body ore. Silver production for the full year increased 26% from the full year 2020 due to higher than expected ore grade.
Mexico is home to major silver mines
South32’s Cannington silver-lead-zinc mine in northwest Queensland was the sixth-largest mine in 2021. The mine was “a longtime undisputed leader” in silver production, with a record 44 million ounces of silver reached in 2005.
Since then, silver production has dropped significantly due to falling silver grades, and Cannington has finally lost its number one position in recent years. In calendar year 2021, silver production from the mine increased by 24% to 14.4 Moz.
Located in Zacatecas, Mexico, 8 km southwest of the Fresnillo mine, Saucito is one of Fresnillo’s most important assets. The silver mine is the seventh largest in the world.
Silver production of 12.4 Moz for the year 2021 decreased by 19.9% compared to the year 2020 due to a decrease in the volume of ore processed and a lower ore grade due to mainly problems of instability and the negative impact of labor reform.
The Fresnillo mine is one of the oldest continuously operating mines in the world, ranking eighth among the world’s leading silver producers. It is remarkable that mining operations have been recorded at the site as early as 1554. The mine’s silver production for the year 2021 decreased by 8.2% due to a volume of ore processed and a in inferior ores.
The Collahuasi mine is a large copper mine located at high altitude in northern Chile in the Tarapaca region, being the ninth largest mine in the world according to the results of the year 2021. The Collahuasi mine produced 9.6 million ounces of silver in 2021.
The mine is operated by a joint venture Compañía Minera Doña Inés de Collahuasi, in which Anglo American plc and Glencore each own 44% while the remaining 12% is held by Japan Collahuasi Resources BV.
Greens Creek was the tenth largest mine in the world, producing at 9.2 Moz in 2021. Greens Creek Mine, 100% owned and operated by Hecla, in Southeast Alaska, is one of the mines most important and least expensive primary silver in the world.
The Greens Creek ore body contains silver, zinc, gold and lead and is within Admiralty Island National Monument, an environmentally sensitive area. Greens Creek is an underground mine that produces approximately 2,100 to 2,300 tonnes of ore per day.
Most of the top ten silver mines are located in Mexico (5 out of 10), indicating huge resource potential in the country, while the remaining mines are located in Alaska, Russia, Peru, Chile and Poland .