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. With less silver scrap supply, which posted its lowest level since 1996, and a contraction in producer hedging, total silver supply decreased by 32.6 million oz 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 recently by the Silver Institute and produced on its behalf by the GFMS Team at Thomson Reuters.

Global silver mine production declined by 0.6% in 2016 to a total of 885.8 million oz. A large proportion of the drop was attributable to the lead/zinc and gold sectors, where production dipped by a combined 15.9 million oz. 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% to realize 30% of total silver mine output last year. Lead/zinc mines contributed 35% of 2016 by-product output, followed by copper mines at 23% and gold mining at 12%.