Who is the world’s largest silver producer?

For years, the title of the ‘World’s Largest Silver Producer’ has been dominated by two companies: Fresnillo PLC (LON:FRES) and BHP Billiton Ltd. (NYSE:BHP). That changed in 2011.

For years, the title of the “World’s Largest Silver Producer” has been dominated by two companies: Fresnillo PLC (LON:FRES) and BHP Billiton Ltd. (NYSE:BHP). Fresnillo is named after it’s mammoth Fresnillo silver mine in Mexico while BHP operates the Cannington mine in Australia.

Both the Fresnillo and Cannington mines are “primary silver mines,” which means that silver is the predominant metal that’s being mined at the sites. For years, those two mines have helped BHP and Fresnillo take the title as the world’s largest silver producers.

In 2011, though, that crown went to the Polish mining company KGHM Polska Miedz (PINK:KGHPF). What’s interesting about that is the fact that the KGHM doesn’t even have a primary silver mine. It captured the title of the world’s largest silver producer by mining silver as a byproduct of other metals.

The world’s Top 3 silver producers in 2011

1) KGHM Polska Miedz (PINK:KGHPF). 40.5 million ounces of silver.

2) BHP Billiton Ltd. (NYSE:BHP). 38.9 million ounces of silver.

3) Fresnillo PLC (LON:FRES). 37.9 million ounces of silver.

What lead to the changing of the guard? Silver production at the Fresnillo and Cannington is on the decline as the quality of ore coming out of both sites has dropped. Check out last year’s numbers to see the difference.

The world’s Top 3 silver producers in 2010

1) BHP Billiton Ltd. (NYSE:BHP). 46.6 million ounces of silver.

2) Fresnillo PLC (LON:FRES). 38.6 million ounces of silver.

3) KGHM Polska Miedz (PINK:KGHPF). 37.3 million ounces of silver.

[Source: The Market Oracle]

Of course, we can’t read much into these numbers when we’re looking for potential investment opportunities. To do that, I recommend searching for junior mining companies that make good buyout candidates (companies that might get acquired by a BHP or Fresnillo, for instance). Check out some of our recent posts on silver mining stocks for more:

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