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Overview of the Silver Industry



Silver Mining.Silver is generally sourced from copper, copper-nickel, gold, lead, and lead-zinc ores, and as such is often a byproduct of the mining of other metals.These silver-bearing ores are most abundant in Mexico, Canada, Poland, Peru, Bolivia, Australia, and the U.S.


Once silver-bearing ore is lifted from the mine, the silver is extracted from the ore by smelting or chemical leaching.Silver is also derived from the electrolytic processing of copper ores that contain silver, and by the Parkes process on lead ores that contain a percentage of silver.


Silver mining has become increasingly expensive.Many of the top-grade deposits have been exploited, resulting in higher production costs for the lower-grade ores.There are also rising costs for labor, permitting, energy, and environmental issues.


Exploration and Development.Silver exploration programs are usually many years in duration, and they can be very expensive.The programs generally begin with a search for favorable geology and surface anomalies.Aerial surveys can help pinpoint areas of interest.The companies develop drill programs to define the mineralized areas and to sample the grades of silver.They then use industry-standard methodologies to determine the proved and probable reserves.These standards are designed to lead to feasibility studies conducted by third parties, with the goal being to attract funding commitments for actual construction of the mining project.


Once a project has been designed and the funding secured, the development process proceeds through permitting, construction, and startup.Silver stocks have a tendancy to react positively to progress on the development front.


Silver Royalty Stocks.A handful of silver stocks generate revenues from royalty streams derived from companies that produce silver.The silver royalty companies obtain perpetual royalty rights by providing cash for other silver companiesí exploration and development of specific projects.These royalties can be particularly lucrative if the projects expand their production beyond the estimates made at the time of funding.


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