Argentina , Bolivia , Peru and Mexico

Hard-hit silver miners clawing back ground in 2021

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, March 18, 2021
Hard-hit silver miners clawing back ground in 2021

Latin America’s main silver miners are planning to claw back ground in 2021 after COVID-19 suspensions saw output slump last year.

Production by nine of the region’s main silver-focused mining companies dropped to 125Moz in 2020, down around 21% or 33Moz from the previous year's 158Moz as the pandemic disrupted operations.

But the companies are targeting a rebound in 2021, with output recovering most of the lost ground to around 148Moz, according to midpoint guidance and one estimate.

Silver miners were among the hardest hit by COVID-19, due to industry-wide suspensions in Mexico and Peru, the world’s biggest producers of the metal.

Other mining jurisdictions such as Chile and Brazil allowed operations to continue throughout the pandemic or imposed shorter suspensions.

The nine are primary silver producers or gold miners with a significant silver component, or firms with large primary silver mines in LatAm.

All are expected to produce around 4Moz or more silver in assets in the region this year.



1. Fresnillo. 2021 silver guidance: 56.5Moz

The Mexican miner expects silver output of 53.5-59.5Moz in 2021, up from 53.1Moz produced last year.

While Fresnillo’s gold assets were hit by a six-week COVID-19 suspension, the company’s silver mines continued to operate.

A number of factors have weighed on the 2021 outlook, including delays to the start of operations at the US$440mn Juanicipio and US$155mn pyrites leach projects, and lower production at the Saucito mine.

2. Pan American Silver: 23.2Moz

Pan American was hit hard by COVID-19 last year, with temporary suspensions at its assets in Mexico, Peru, Argentina and Bolivia.

Silver output fell to 17.3Moz from 25.9Moz in 2019.

While improvements are expected in 2021, the company says pandemic-related protocols will continue to weigh on production during the year, with travel restrictions also impacting assets in Argentina.

Silver guidance is 22.5-24.0Moz.

3. Buenaventura: 17.7Moz

Peruvian miner Buenaventura expects silver production to rise to 17.7Moz this year from 10.3Moz in 2020, when operations were affected by COVID (figures are on a 100% basis, rather than attributable to the company).

4. First Majestic Silver: 13.2Moz

Mexico-focused First Majestic expects silver output to rebound to 2019 levels this year, after production slumped to 11.6Moz in 2020 due to a two-month national shutdown.

The company also expects higher throughput and grades to boost silver output at the San Dimas mine.

5. Hochschild Mining, 2021 silver estimate: 12.4Moz

Hochshild saw major disruptions at its Peruvian and Argentine mines last year due to COVID-19, with silver output plummeting to 9.8Moz from 16.8Moz in 2019.

The recovery in 2021 will be muted. The company expects output of 31-32Moz silver equivalent, or 360,000-372,000 gold equivalent.

Hochschild did not respond to requests for clarification of pure silver output in 2021.

With silver accounting for 39.4% of silver equivalent output in 2020, the same percentage this year would put silver production around 12.4Moz.

6. Fortuna Silver: 7.2Moz

Fortuna expects silver output to remain broadly compared with the 7.1Moz seen last year, which was down from 8.8Moz in 2019.

The company has the San José mine in Mexico, Caylloma in Peru and the Lindero primary gold asset in Argentina.

7. Coeur Mining (Palmarejo mine): 7.1Moz

Silver output at Coeur’s Palmarejo mine in Mexico came in within guidance at 6.3Moz in 2020, despite a 45-day COVID-19 suspension.

For 2021, output is forecast at 6.5-7.8Moz.

8. SSR Mining (Puna operations): 6.5Moz

SSR saw silver output slip to 5.6Moz at its Puna operations in Argentina in 2020, from 7.7Moz the previous year, due to pandemic-related suspensions.

Silver production at the asset is forecast at 6-7Moz in 2021.

9. Endeavour Silver: 3.9Moz

Endeavour expects silver output of 3.6-4.3Moz this year, up from 3.5Moz in 2020 when the company’s Mexican assets were impacted by the pandemic.

Production was 4.0Moz in 2019.

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