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How Much Silver is Left on Earth?

Published by honor in category Precious Metal Information Guides on 09.11.2023
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Silver on earth

Do you know how much silver is left on Earth in 2023? This article discusses annual silver mining, silver reserves, and the total amount of silver in the world!

Silver is a precious metal that people have valued and used for centuries. People use it for everything from silver to electronics, medical equipment, and more.

How much silver has been mined historically?

During human history, it is estimated that approximately 1.4 billion kg of silver have been mined. But due to corrosion, where the silver has dissolved, barely half is left anymore.

Until 2018, over 1.6 million metric tonnes of silver had been mined; this amount would fit in a cube 55 metres on each side. Now the total amount is about 1.74 million metric tonnes, which is equivalent to about 55,942,740,000 troy ounces of silver.

1 troy ounce = 31.1 grammes

Since time immemorial, humans have mined silver from the earth, but that amount has accelerated tremendously in the last century due to technological advances.

To date, billions of ounces of silver have been mined. The historic mines, now exhausted, stand as great monuments to eras of the hunt for precious metal.

Yet the legacy of mined silver continues to circulate, whether in coins or recycled materials, contributing to the economy and culture.

How much silver is left to mine?

How much silver remains to be unearthed is today a big question mark. Scientists have their guesses, but they change pretty much all the time as they find new places with silver or develop better ways to get it out of the ground.

The future of silver mining depends on how much it costs to dig it up, how much people want it, and whether we can get it without destroying our planet too much.

So when we talk about silver, we’re not just discussing shiny coins and jewellery. This is a big topic of conversation because it’s about how we use our planet’s resources, drive our technology to produce more, and what all of this means for tomorrow’s planet.

There is not an infinite amount of silver

Silver is a limited resource, meaning that only a certain amount can be extracted from the earth. According to a report by the US Geological Survey (USGS), the global reserves of silver were estimated at about 570,000 tonnes in 2020. This refers to the amount that we still know is available for mining.

How much silver is mined each year?

According to the Silver Mine Production Worldwide report from Statista, the estimated global production of silver in 2022 was 26,000 tonnes. The report also states that the production of the precious metal has been relatively stable over the years.

At this rate, how long will the unmined silver reserves last?

To estimate how long the unmined silver reserves may remain, we need to consider the amount of known reserves and the current production rate.

From the available data, we can use the figure of 570,000 metric tonnes for global silver reserves, as mentioned earlier, and if we take the 2022 production rate of roughly 26,000 metric tonnes per year, we can do a simple calculation:

570,000 tonnes (reserves) ÷ 26,000 tonnes (annual production) = about 21.92 years

This suggests that at the current rate of production, and assuming no new silver is discovered, the silver reserves will last for just under 22 years.

However, this is a simplified calculation, and the actual lifetime of silver reserves may be longer due to several factors.

A distribution of the decomposed silver:

  • 49.73% have been consumed or lost.
  • 45.58% went to jewellery, decorations, or religious objects.
  • 2.89% was used for coins.
  • 1.80% was used for silver bars.

Large silver mines around the world

Some of the world’s top silver mines include:

  • Penasquito, Mexico
  • Polkowice-Sieroszowice, Poland
  • San Cristobal, Bolivia
  • Pitarrilla, Mexico
  • Lubin, Poland
  • Rudna, Poland
  • Gumuskoy, Turkey
  • Fresnillo, Mexico
  • Antamina, Peru
  • Cannington, Australia

Factors affecting Silver’s future

Silver, with its shiny presence, is not only a precious metal but also an important component in various industries. However, the future supply of silver is subject to much speculation and analysis.

Although it is tempting to predict the lifetime of silver reserves by simply dividing the known reserves by the current extraction rate, such an approach does not show the whole picture.

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Several factors are at play, each with the potential to significantly alter the landscape of silver mining and consumption. Let’s explore five key elements that could affect the future of silver reserves and their sustainability.

It is important to note that the concept of “reserves” is dynamic, not static. The market price of silver has a significant impact on economic viability, which is a factor in revaluing reserves. If prices rise, what was once considered too expensive to mine may be reclassified as reserves.

New silver discoveries

People are always looking for new silver on earth. Discovering new silver can lead to increased supply and bring benefits such as job creation to the local area. While such findings may help prevent silver shortages, it is also important to consider the environmental impact of silver mining and the cost of extracting the silver.

The technology in mining

New tools and ways to mine silver make a big difference. They help us reach silver from deep in the ground without damaging the soil too much. These tools improve over time, which means we can get more silver and make it safe for people to use it in the future.

Recycling of silver

Recycling silver is a great way to use it again without having to dig for more. Silver does not deteriorate when we recycle it, so we can continue to use it repeatedly. This helps us not to dig too much for silver and is better for the planet.

Silver and money

The price of silver can change how much we mine. When the price is high, companies want to mine more, even if it is harder to come by. But if the price drops, they may not mine as much.

Demand for Silver

People’s needs for silver change with inventions. We use silver in many items, from jewellery to gadgets and even healthcare. When a new product uses a lot of silver, we need more.

However, if a new product does not use silver, demand decreases. For example, we hardly use silver in cameras now, but it is important for making other industrial applications such as solar panels and electric vehicles, which have a heavy metal focus, rely heavily on silver.

Also, when countries grow quickly, they can use more silver to build things and save money. But if the silver market and economy deteriorate or if we find cheaper materials than silver, people generally don’t want as much. These ups and downs in what people want to do can affect how much they dig for silver and how long their silver will last.

Summary

The estimated 22-year lifespan of silver reserves, based on current global silver production, is a simplified projection. Several important factors have an impact on the actual scenario. Historical silver mining trends and advances in silver mining technology greatly affect the efficiency and scale of silver mine production worldwide.

Silver market dynamics, particularly silver price fluctuations, directly impact mining profitability and, thus, production rates. The demand for silver in industries, subject to change with technological innovations and economic shifts, also plays a crucial role.

Environmental considerations in silver mining, as well as advancements in silver extraction methods, are increasingly pivotal in shaping the future of silver supply. Moreover, the discovery of new silver mines could alter reserve estimates, extending or shortening the projected lifespan of silver resources.

In conclusion, while our current understanding suggests that silver could last for around 22 years at the current rate of extraction, this is a fluid estimate. It is subject to change based on factors such as advancements in mining technology, market dynamics, industrial demand, environmental considerations, and potential new discoveries. As a result, a complex interplay of various global and industry-specific factors affects the future availability of silver rather than just being dependent on the current rate of production.

Gold price (XAU-GBP)
1,883.05 GBP/oz
  
- GBP6.70
Silver price (XAG-GBP)
22.40 GBP/oz
  
- GBP0.26

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