Summary of Silver Mineral Commodities Globally 2015

World Silver Consumption

In October 2014, the silver price averaged $17.16 per troy ounce, 22% lower than the average October 2013 price. The overall decline in silver prices corresponded to a small drop in global industrial consumption owing to slower economic growth, particularly the eurozone, and to substitution and thrifting. Demand for silver by investors continued to increase as they sought safe-haven investments and as the price of silver decreased. On November 7, a group of 16 silver exchange traded funds (ETFs) held about 20,200 tons of silver, slightly higher than the 19,680 tons held at yearend 2013. In November, Thomson Reuters reported that the U.S. Mint had temporarily sold out of silver eagle coins owing to an increase in demand. Demand for coins was expected to increase in the fourth quarter.

See also: Tin Mineral Products and Consumption

Global demand for silver continued to decline, and in the United States, demand fell to about 498 tons, compared with a high of about 2,000 tons in 2000. Since 2000, demand for silver in photographic applications has steadily declined owing to increasing popularity of digital cameras. Improvements in the cameras of smartphones and tablets have contributed to the growth in digital photography. Although silver was still used in x-ray films, imaging facilities have been transitioning to digital imaging systems. Demand for silver in jewelry, electronic applications, and other industrial applications declined, while the use of silver in brazing alloys, coins, silverware, and solders increased. The use of trace amounts of silver in bandages and pharmaceuticals for wound care and minor skin infections was also increasing.

See also: Cobalt Mineral Products and Consumption

World silver mine production increased slightly to 26,100 tons, principally as a result of increased production from mines in Australia, Bolivia, China, and Peru. Domestic silver mine production rose slightly as the Lucky Friday Mine (silver-lead-zinc) in Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene mining district continued to ramp up production to levels exceeding preclosure levels. The Lucky Friday Mine was closed at yearend 2011 following an accident and rock burst, and reopened in the first quarter of 2013. The Pinto Valley Mine, a copper mine in Arizona, ceased recovering byproduct silver and the Hollister Mine, a gold-silver mine in Nevada, ceased production.

World Silver Mine Production and Reserves

Silver Reserves for Australia and Peru were revised based on new information from Government and industry sources.

Silver mine production and reserves
Silver world mine production and reserves.

World Silver Resources

Although silver was a principal product at several mines, silver was primarily obtained as a byproduct from lead-zinc mines, copper mines, and gold mines, in descending order of production. The polymetallic ore deposits from which silver was recovered account for more than two-thirds of U.S. and world resources of silver. Most recent silver discoveries have been associated with gold occurrences; however, copper and lead-zinc occurrences that contain byproduct silver will continue to account for a significant share of future reserves and resources.

Silver Substitutes 

Digital imaging, film with reduced silver content, silverless black-and-white film, and xerography substitute for silver that has traditionally been used in black-and-white as well as color photographic applications. Surgical pins and plates may be made with tantalum and titanium in place of silver. Stainless steel may be substituted for silver flatware.

See also: Thorium Mineral Products and Consumption

Nonsilver batteries may replace silver batteries in some applications. Aluminum and rhodium may be used to replace silver that was traditionally used in mirrors and other reflecting surfaces. Silver may be used to replace more costly metals in catalytic converters for off-road vehicles.

Sources: U.S. Geological Survey, 2015, Mineral commodity summaries 2015 & U.S. Geological Survey, 196 p.,

Summary of Silver Mineral Commodities Globally 2015