by Nicholas LePan, Natural Resources Editor at Visual Capitalist
The price of silver has been on an upward trend since 2015 and some would say it will keep growing. On January 31, 2019, the price of silver was at USD 18.04 by August it reached a high of USD 29. This bodes well for silver producers and explorers.
The world’s largest silver producer, Mexico, is receiving renewed interest in silver exploration. Mexico’s mining industry accounts for nearly 23% of the world production of silver, generating more than 206 million ounces (5840 tonnes) last year, up from 196.6 million ounces (5573.5 tonnes) in 2018 (Harris, 2020). However, all this production came to a halt due to COVID-19 shutdowns. But miners and explorers are ramping back up in time to take advantage of an emerging bull market in silver prices.
|Mexican state||Silver production (2019) – metric tons|
|State of Mexico||200.93|
|San Luis Potosi||131.55|
Source: Camimex, 2020b, p. 206
Mexico, built for silver mining
The history of Mexico and mining are intertwined. From the earliest silver discovery at Guanajuato that fueled the Spanish Empire to the modern Penasquito mine, Mexico’s geology has created opportunities for several generations.
The country’s terrain is tectonically active and geologically complex. Mountain chains all across Mexico, including the Sierra Madre Oriental, Sierra Madre Occidental and Sierra Madre del Sur, have created the several mining districts of belts.
Top 10 Silver Producers in Mexico
|Project||Company||Millions of ounces|
|La Colorada||Pan American Silver||8.2|
|San Jose||Fortuna Silver||7.9|
|San Dimas||First Majestic Silver||6.3|
Source: Camimex, 2020a, p. 42
COVID-19 shutters an industry
On March 31, 2020 the Mexican Ministry of Health declared a national health emergency and suspended all non-essential businesses from operating for a 30-day period. All mining companies halted production and exploration activities and put mining operations on care and maintenance (Lazenby, 2020).
Mexican mining output will likely fall by about 17% by the end of 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 but should recover by the first quarter of next year as operations resume. In an interview with Reuters, Fernando Alanis Ortega, president of Camimex stated: ‘Last year, the total value of mining production was more or less around 244 billion pesos (USD 11.25 billion) and we’re estimating that this year it will drop by 17%,’ he said. ‘In a couple of months, operations should be back.’ (Torres, 2020).
On May 13, 2020, the government of Mexico added mining to its list of essential businesses and announced plans for a phased reopening of the industry. The government then extended the shutdown of non-essential activities to May 30, meaning mining resumed on June 1 (Jamasmie, 2020a, first appeared in Jamasmie, 2020b).
According to the 2020 CPM Silver Yearbook, Mexican silver production grew 48% between 2010 to 2019, for 190.3 million ounces (5394.9 tonnes) in 2019 and its share of global mine production increased from 18.7% in 2010 to 25% in 2019.
The CPM Group expected Mexico to increase production to 194.6 million ounces (5516.8 tonnes) in 2020; however, due to the pandemic, CPM forecasts a decline of 15.9 million ounces (450.7 tonnes) of silver (Newman, et al, 2020 as cited in Dickson, 2020).
New Silver Projects in Mexico
|Project name||Company||Production (mil ounces)||Expected production|
|Camino Rojo||Orla Mining||0.40||2021|
|Santa Elena-Ermitano (expansion)||First Majestic||n/a||2021|
|Media Luna||Torex Gold||1.7||2024|
Source: Camimex, 2020, p. 43
Silver exploration in Mexico
Exploration in the region has reignited with a series of financings that will pour money directly into Mexico’s mineral exploration industry, reversing a downward trend of investment since 2012 (Newman, et al, 2020, p. 18-21).
Silver explorers (see Dickson, 2020)
- SilverCrest Metals (TSX: SIL, NYSE American: SILV) – Las Chispas
- Kootenay Silver (TSX-V: KTN) – La Negra, Columba, Copalito
- Golden Tag Resources (TSX-V: GOG) – The San Diego Silver Project
- Reyna Silver (TSX-V: RSLV) – Guigui and La Cinche
- Vizsla Resources (TSX-V: VZLA) – Panuco
- Riverside Resources (TSX-V: RRI) – La Silla gold-silver project
- Vangold Mining (TSX-V: VAN) – El Pinguico
- Canasil (TSX-V: CLZ) – Nora silver-gold project
- GR Silver Mining (TSX-V: GRSL) – Polomasas silver project
- Silver Viper Minerals (TSX-V: VIPR) – La Virginia and Rubi-Esperanza
- Silver One Resources (TSX-V: SVE) – Penasco Quemado and La Frazada
- Southern Silver Exploration (TSX-V:SSV) – Cerro Las Minitas project
Jamasmie, C. (2020a). Mining in Mexico to restart. Retrieved September/October, from https://www.northernminer.com/news/mining-in-mexico-torestart-next-week/1003816999/
Jamasmie, C. (2020b). Mining in Mexico to restart next week. Retrieved October/November, from https://www.mining.com/mining-in-mexico-to-restart-next-week/
Camara Minera de Mexico (Camimex). (2020a). Informe Annual 2020 (LXXXIII Asamblea General Ordinaria). Camara Minera de Mexico. https://camimex.org.mx/files/9415/9965/7716/02_info_2020.pdf
Camara Minera de Mexico (Camimex). (2020b). Estadisticas. (LXXXIII Asamblea General Ordinaria). Camara Minera de Mexico. https://camimex.org.mx/files/4215/9838/6023/05_info_2020.pdf
Lazenby, H. (2020, April 02). Mexico lockdown upsets miners’ 2020 plans. Retrieved October 05, 2020, from https://www.mining-journal.com/covid-19/news/1384303/mexicolockdown-upsets-miners-2020-plans
Torres, N. (2020, June 04). Mexico mining output to shrink 17% in 2020: Industry group. Retrieved September/October, 2020, from https://ca.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN23A3I0
Harris, P. (2020, April 01). Mexico mining suspension to hit silver supply. Retrieved September/October, 2020, from https://www.mining-journal.com/covid-19/news/1384184/mexico-suspends-mining-in-april
Dickson, E. (2020, June). LATIN AMERICA: Mexico Project Roundup. Retrieved September/October, 2020, from https://resourceworld.com/latinamerica-mexico-project-roundup/
Newman, E., Meader, N., Klapwijk, P., Fellows, M., Chou, E., Gao, Y., … Diwe, A. (2020). World Silver Survey 2020 (ISBN: 978-1-9162526-5-3). The Silver Institute. https://www.silverinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/World-Silver-Survey-2020.pdf