The Northern Miner presents the top-10, silver-focused companies by market capitalization.
Market cap: $8 billion
With 61.8 million oz. silver production in 2018, Mexico City-headquartered Fresnillo (LSE: FRES) says it’s the world’s largest silver producer. Across Mexico, the company operates seven mines and holds two development projects and three advanced exploration properties.
This year the company is scheduled to produce between 55 million and 58 million oz. silver. Fresnillo reported consolidated cash costs of US$7.88 per oz. silver for the first half of 2019.
The company has a total of 2.2 billion oz. silver in resources across its suite of properties.
Fresnillo also produced 922,000 oz. gold in 2018 and has 39 million oz. gold in resources.
The company also owns a number of early exploration projects in Mexico, Chile and Peru.
Market cap: $5 billion
Lima-based miner Buenaventura (NYSE: BVN) owns dozens of mineral assets throughout Peru, with a heavy silver weighting. The company delivered 26.9 million oz. silver in 2018, as well as 603,000 oz. gold, 39,000 tonnes lead, 63,000 tonnes zinc and 122,000 tonnes copper.
In 2019, the company plans to produce between 20.8 million and 23.4 million oz. silver, with cash costs between US$10 and US$11 per oz. silver.
Buenaventura owns all or part of 16 silver-bearing assets containing 197 million oz. silver in attributable reserves, and another 172 million oz. silver in non-reserve resources.
The company’s wholly owned Uchucchacua underground mine is its flagship silver asset, 265 km northeast of Lima. In 2018, the mine produced more than 15.4 million oz. silver from ore averaging 398 grams silver per tonne. The mine has 11.9 million tonnes in proven and probable reserves grading 239 grams silver per tonne, for 92 million contained oz. silver.
Buenaventura has 266 million oz. silver in reserves across its property portfolio.
3. Pan American Silver
Market cap: $4.6 billion
Pan American Silver (TSX: PAAS; NASDAQ: PAAS) operates across the Americas, with 10 mines in Mexico, Peru, Canada, Bolivia and Argentina.
In 2018, Pan American produced 24.8 million oz. silver at average cash costs of US$3.35 per ounce. The company’s guidance for 2019 targets producing between 26.6 million and 27.6 million oz. silver.
The company’s proven and probable reserves add up to 273 million tonnes, which house 557 million oz. silver and 5.1 million oz. gold. Additionally, Pan American has more than 1 billion tonnes of measured and indicated resources, which contain 797 million oz. silver and 10.6 million oz. gold.
In February 2019, the company closed the US$1.1-billion acquisition of Tahoe Resources and its Escobal silver mine in Guatemala. A Guatemalan court suspended Escobal in 2018 and ordered more consultation with local communities before mining can resume.
4. First Majestic Silver
Market cap: $2.6 billion
Mexico-focused First Majestic Silver (TSX: FR; NYSE: AG) owns six silver mines across the country.
Precious metal production for 2018 totalled 11.7 million oz. silver, or 22.2 million equivalent oz. silver (including gold, lead and zinc credits).
In 2019, the company expects to extract 12.8 million to 13.5 million oz. silver, which would amount to 24.7 million to 27.5 million equivalent oz. silver, including secondary metal credits.
First Majestic’s proven and probable reserves total 17.3 million tonnes grading 184 grams silver per tonne and 1.44 grams gold, for 103 million contained oz. silver and 807,000 oz. gold. Another 150 million oz. silver and 1.35 million oz. gold sit in 20.6 million measured and indicated tonnes grading 227 grams silver and 1.88 grams gold.
First Majestic is also advancing several exploration and advanced development projects across Mexico.
5. Coeur Mining
Market cap: $1.6 billion
Chicago-based Coeur Mining (NYSE: CDE) owns five operating mines across North America: Kensington in Alaska, Silvertip in British Columbia, Rochester in Nevada, Wharf in South Dakota and Palmarajo in Chihuahua state, Mexico.
In 2018, the company delivered 13.5 million oz. silver, 353,000 oz. gold, 32.5 million lb. zinc and 27.5 million lb. lead.
Coeur’s guidance for 2019 outlines 12.2 million to 14.7 million oz. silver, 334,000 to 372,000 oz. gold, 25,000 to 40,000 lb. zinc and 20,000 to 35,000 lb. lead.
The company is also advancing its feasibility-stage La Preciosa silver project, 85 km northeast of the city of Durango in Mexico. In addition, Coeur owns the advanced Sterling gold property near Beatty, Nevada.
Across its asset portfolio, the company holds 263 million tonnes in proven and probable reserves containing 171 million oz. silver, 2.8 million oz. gold, 291 million lb. zinc and 197 million lb. lead.
6. Hochschild Mining
Market cap: $1.5 billion
London-based operator Hochschild Mining (LSE: HOC) owns the Inmaculada and Pallancata mines in Peru and its 51%-owned San Jose mine in southern Argentina.
In 2018, the company produced 19.7 million oz. silver and 260,000 oz. gold.
For 2019, the miner is set to produce 16.9 million oz. silver and 253,000 oz. gold. In early 2019, Hochschild transitioned its Arcata precious metals mine to care and maintenance in Peru.
Across its holdings, the company has 46 million oz. silver and 741,000 oz. gold within 6.2 million tonnes of proven and probable reserves. Its measured and indicated resources total 429 million tonnes containing 178.3 million oz. silver and 10.6 million oz. gold.
Hochschild is spending US$37 million at various brownfield and greenfield exploration assets in 2019.
7. MAG Silver
Market cap: $1.2 billion
MAG Silver (TSX: MAG; NYSE-AM: MAG) comes in as the most valuable, non-producing silver company. The Vancouver-based firm’s flagship asset is its 44% stake in the Juanicipio silver project in Mexico, jointly held with Fresnillo (56%).
In April 2019, the partners announced their boards approved construction of the US$395-million mine, with production scheduled for the second half of 2020.
As outlined in a 2017 preliminary economic assessment, Fresnillo will operate the mine at 4,000 tonnes per day to produce (on a 100% basis) 183 million oz. silver, 750,000 oz. gold, 1.3 billion lb. zinc and 812 million lb. lead over an initial 19-year mine life.
Exploration is ongoing at the property, with four drill rigs active on-site.
8. Hecla Mining
Market cap: $1.2 billion
Idaho-based Hecla Mining (NYSE: HL) operates three silver mines: Greens Creek in Alaska, Lucky Friday in Idaho and San Sebastian in Durango state, Mexico. It has two gold mines: Casa Berardi in Quebec and its Nevada operations, which include the Hollister, Fire Creek and Midas assets.
In 2018, the 128-year old company produced 10.4 million oz. silver and a record 262,103 oz. gold.
In 2019, Hecla is on track to produce 11.7 million oz. silver and 274,000 oz. gold.
Its current reserve base amounts to 38.9 million tonnes in the proven and probable categories, containing 191 million oz. silver, 2.8 million oz. gold, 702,000 tonnes lead and 845,000 tonnes zinc.
During the second quarter of 2019, Hecla reported it had up to 21 drills turning at its five mine sites. Drilling intersected high-grade material, which could improve and extend operations.
9. Silvercorp Metals
Market cap: $918 million
China-focused Silvercorp Metals (TSX: SVM: NYSE-AM: SVM) owns the GC silver-zinc mine in Guangdong province and the Ying Mine District, which is comprised of six silver-lead-zinc mines in Henan province.
In fiscal year 2019, ended March 31, 2019, the company reports it sold 6.4 million oz. silver, 3,500 oz. gold, 64.8 million lb. lead and 22.7 million lb. zinc, representing annual increases of 6%, 13%, 5% and 16% from the year before.
The company has 16.1 million tonnes in reserves, which contain 106.7 million oz. silver, plus 518,000 tonnes lead and 279,000 tonnes zinc.
Silvercorp also holds a 29% stake in New Pacific Metals’ (TSXV: NUAG) Silver Sand project in Bolivia, which targets 55,000 metres of drilling in 2019, ahead of a first-time resource estimate expected in early 2020.
10. Fortuna Silver Mines
Market cap: $694 million
Fortuna Silver Mines (TSX: FVI: NYSE: FSM) holds a portfolio of silver assets, including two producing mines: the San Jose silver-gold mine in Mexico and the Caylloma silver-gold-zinc-lead mine in Peru.
In Argentina’s Salta province, the company’s Lindero gold project started preproduction mining in September 2019. The company plans to place ore on the leach pad in the fourth quarter and pour gold in early 2020.
In 2018, the company produced a total of 8.9 million oz. silver and 54,000 oz. gold along with 28 million lb. lead and 45 million lb. zinc.
Fortuna’s 2019 guidance outlines production of between 8.2 million and 9 million oz. silver and 49,000 to 54,000 oz. gold. Lead production should total 26.1 million lb. to 28.8 million lb., and zinc is expected to come in between 39.8 million and 44 million pounds.