New projects in Mexico’s silver mines trigger METS opportunities

10 Nov 2020

Silver production has resumed in Mexico with a number of mines restarting operations. Companies are seeking to meet increased global demand while prices remain high.

Renewed production is triggering fresh investment. New projects at the world’s largest silver mine – Fresnillo, in Sacuito – will create opportunities for Australian METS companies.

COVID-19 related closures

Mexico is the largest producer of silver in the world, with a market share of 23% of world production. In 2019, Mexico produced more than 200 million ounces, up from 196.6 million ounces in 2018.

Mining activities had to be suspended during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Mexican government declared the mining sector as non-essential. This impacted local industry and hundreds of communities that depend of silver mining.

Mine closures have also impacted the global supply chain. Today, silver is widely used in medical devices, electronics and multiple advanced-manufacturing sectors.

Silver lining

Mexico's mining operations restarted in late May after the industry gained essential status. Mexico´s miners have resumed operations and are now looking to make up for the lost ground.

High global prices for precious metals – including silver – are a key incentive.

Top production sites in Mexico

In Mexico, the state of Zacatecas produces the largest amount of silver, with 36% of the total. Next is Chihuahua with 20%, then Durango with 14%, then Sonora with 10%.

According to mexicominero.org, Mexico´s top ten silver mines are:

Rank Mine Company Production 2019 (oz) Global market share
1 Saucito Fresnillo Plc 19,781,000 2.23%
2 Penasquito Newmont Corp., Minera Frisco S.A.B. de C.V., Private Interest, Maverix Metals Inc. 18,292,121 2.06%
3 Fresnillo Fresnillo Plc 15,117,000 1.70%
4 San Julian Fresnillo Plc 14,630,000 1.65%
5 San Jose Fortuna Silver Mines Inc. 7,979,634 0.90%
6 La Colorada Pan American Silver Corp. 7,617,000 0.86%
7 Palmarejo Complex Coeur Mining Inc. 7,516,390 0.85%
8 Cienega Fresnillo Plc 5,999,000 0.68%
9 Tizapa Industrias Peñoles SAB de CV, Dowa Holdings Co. Ltd., Sumitomo Corp. 5,948,000 0.67%
10 IMMSA Southern Copper Corp. 5,649,500 0.64%

 

Opportunities at Fresnillo

Fresnillo is the world's largest silver-producing mine. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is owned by parent company Peñoles.

In 2020 Fresnillo continues to develop its Juanicipio silver-gold project, which is a joint venture with MAG Silver.

The Juanicipio project involves a silver-gold-zinc deposit with two main veins, Valdecañas and Juanicipio. Juanicipio is located eight kilometres southwest of the Fresnillo mine, in Zacatecas state.

The project is currently under construction and it is expected to enter into production by June 2021, including the flotation plant.

Fresnillo projects

Project CapEx was revised up from US$395 million to US$440 million, according to Fresnillo Development communications. This reflects additional actual expenditure recently incurred by the joint venture partners on the underground project.

The CapEx increases reflected the need for sustaining capital to facilitate an early start to underground works. Also, the full construction costs for two large life-of-mine ventilation shafts was brought forward.

Fresnillo has another three projects under construction.

  • A pyrites plant to benefit both the Fresnillo and Saucito mine sites. This plant is almost completed, but start up could be deferred by a possible delay in the final inspections owing to COVID-19 restrictions.
  • An optimisation plant at Fresnillo, which is due for completion by the end of 2020.
  • An optimisation at Cienaga mine, which is scheduled for 2022.

These projects represent significant opportunities for Australian METS companies.

Contact us

Are you are interested in finding out more about Mexico´s silver-mining opportunities?

Please contact our Mexico-based team: manuel.barbera@austrade.gov.au.