Silver Supply and Demand

silver nugget

Below you will find charts and statistics for 2012's Silver Supply and Demand.

Including Charts of the amount of silver mined by country, year over year, you will also find Supply and Demand Charts for the year 2012. 

In addition there are Year over Year Silver Supply & Demand Charts, ranging from 2010-2012.

At the very bottom of the page you will find an Interactive Silver price chart to help you see how the Silver price has changed since 1985.

The photo (above right) is a rare specimen of silver ore.


Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag, its atomic number is 47. Its symbol comes from the Latin word "Argentum", from the Indo-European root arg- for "grey" or "shining."

Silver is a soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal.

Silver occurs naturally in its pure, free form, as an alloy with gold and other metals and in minerals such as argentite and chlorargyrite.  Most silver is produced as a byproduct of copper, gold, lead, and zinc refining.

Silver has long been valued as a precious metal, and it is used to make ornaments, jewelry, high-value tableware, utensils (silverware), and currency coins.

Today, silver metal is also used in electrical contacts and conductors, in batteries, in the manufacturing of solar panels and in catalysis of chemical reactions.

Silver compounds are used in photographic film, and dilute silver nitrate solutions and other silver compounds are used as disinfectants. While many medical antimicrobial uses of silver have been supplanted by antibiotics, further research into clinical potential continues.

Silver Supply and Demand

Silver Producers

2011 silver producers

The chart above displays the producers of Silver for 2011 and the chart below are the USGS's "Estimates" for the Silver producers of 2012.  Note: all USGS tonnage data has been converted to Million Troy Ounces (Moz.).

2012 Silver Producers

Silver Production

Silver is most often found as a by product of lead-zinc mines and copper mines, it is also found in association with gold mining. Few mines around the world are primarily silver, poly-metallic ore deposits account for more than two-thirds of the Global deposits of silver.

Globally in 2012, silver mine production increased due to better recovery of silver ore in  Peru and Indonesia.  In addition, China, Kazakhstan and Mexico saw increases in mine production.

The United States had a decrease in 2012.  This was due to many reasons, in January, the Lucky Friday Mine in Idaho, the highest producing silver primary mine in the United States, was temporarily shut-down. 

The Silver Shaft at Lucky Friday was shut down last year by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration for removal of built-up sand and concrete material.(Forbes -

Furthermore, silver mining in Montana, Utah and Nevada all had reduced mine production.

According to the USGS, the Global silver mine production in 2011 was 23,300 tons or (749,111,310 million troy ounces) and 2012's estimated total mine production is 24,000 tons or (771,616,800 million troy ounces).

Silver Supply and Demand

Silver Supply

2012 silver supply
2012 silver supply

Silver Supply and Demand

Silver Mine Production

Mine production remains the largest component of silver supply, accounting for more than two-thirds of total production.

Silver Mine production is not the sole source; the others being scrap, disinvestment, government sales and producer hedging.

Globally, mined silver ore increased by four percent, (4%) year over year, from 757,000,000 Million Troy Ounces in 2011, to 787,000,000 Million Troy Ounces in 2012.

According to the Silver Institute, mining costs for primary silver mines rose to over $8.00 a troy ounce, due to higher electricity and maintenance charges and from the costs of labor.

Scrap Silver

Scrap, or more properly “old scrap,” is the silver that returns to the market when recovered from manufactured goods. This includes old jewelry, photographic chemicals, and other industrial uses.

However, it excludes silver that is returned untransformed by the manufacturing process or that never becomes an end product or so called “process scrap”. Old scrap normally makes up around a fifth of total supply.

Year over Year, Silver Scrap Supply in 2012, fell less than 2%.  In 2012, silver scrap accounted for 253,900,000 Million Troy Ounces, slightly less than the 258,000,000 Million Troy ounces in 2011.

Net Gov't Sales

Disinvestment and government sales are similar in that both comprise the return to the market of old bars and coins by the private sector and governments. It is worth bearing in mind that these sources may not add to supply every year on a net basis. In some years, individuals have been net investors (as was the case in 2008) and governments net buyers.

Producer Hedging

The final and minor component of the silver supply is producer hedging or the early sale of siler ore by mining companies of future production. Hedging may also not appear every year on the supply side on a net basis as it can form part of demand as de-hedging.

Silver Supply and Demand

2012 silver supply
2012 silver supply

Silver Supply and Demand

Silver Demand

2012 silver demand
2012 silver demand

Silver Supply and Demand

In 2012, total silver demand was 1,048,300 Million Troy ounces,  slightly higher than 2011's total of 1,039.4 Million troy ounces.

Industrial demand for silver slid by a little more than 4%, year over year, to 465,900,00 Million Troy ounces (see chart below for comparisons)

Industrial demands for silver includes some of the following industries; solar, electrical, bandage wound care for it's anti-bacterial properties,  batteries, electroplating, bearings, RFID, water purification, etc. etc. (a more in-depth description of these industries,is below the 30 year chart)

Photography, Silverware, Coins & Medals and Jewelery (although nominal) all saw a minor decrease in silver demand, year over year. 

Silver Bullion

Year over Year, American Silver Eagle bullion coins had a reduced demand.  ASE's sold in 2012 totaled 33,742,500 coins, compared to 2011's total of 39,868,500 ASE's (American Silver Eagles) sold. 

This also held true for the year over year totals of the  America the Beautiful 5oz. silver bullion coins.  In 2011, a total of 465,100, 5oz. ATB bullion coins were sold or an additional 2,325,500 troy ounce of investment silver.

Whereas, in 2012, only a total of 113,800 ATB (America the Beautiful) coins were sold. Totaling only 569,000 troy ounces of investment silver.

The 1 troy ounce Canadian Maple Leaf and Mexican Libertad bullion coins also saw a decrease in the demand. 

Although this was not the case worldwide, Australia's 1oz. Silver  Kookaburra and Silver Lunar Bullion coins have both sold out for multiple years. 

Even-though, the Perth Mint has limited mintages of under 1 million for these silver bullion coins, demand has been certain, year over year. 

Furthermore, China has increased their mintage for the 1oz. Chinese Silver Panda, year over year, from 6,000,000 in 2011, to 8,000,000 in 2012.

Silver Supply and Demand

2012 silver demand
2012 silver demand

Silvers Industrial Uses - In-Depth

Silver Supply and Demand


Silver jewelry is highly prized for its brilliant luster and its ease of fabrication. Pure silver, also known as 999 fineness, is quite tarnish resistant, but it is too soft for use in jewelry.

Silversmiths often alloy it with other metals, such as copper, to harden it. Sterling silver, for example, is 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. Sterling silver is a standard in many countries for silver jewelry.


The same properties that make silver ideal for jewelry also cross over into silverware with its reflectiveness and tarnish resistance. Copper is mixed with silver to toughen it for use as cutlery, bowls and decorative items such as picture frames.


Silver based photography is caused by light striking sensitive silver halide crystals suspended on a film. Through the use of a chemical process, the differences in light intensity form negative images which can then be processed into paper pictures by using silver embedded paper.

Approximately 5,000 color photographs can be taken using one ounce of silver. The growth of digital photography has caused the use of silver-based imaging by consumers to drop over the past decade.

Nevertheless, because of its extreme accuracy and cost effectiveness, silver-halide films are still chosen for some applications.

For example, medical X-Ray technicians, especially those in developing countries, prefer silver-based pictures because of their low cost and high accuracy.

In addition, many motion picture makers still prefer silver- halide film over digital, because of its low cost, excellent resolution and true color properties.

Silver Supply and Demand


Many batteries, rechargeable and disposable, are manufactured with silver alloys as the cathode or negative side.

Although expensive, silver cells have a power-to-weight characteristics superior to their competitors. The most common of these batteries is the small button shaped silver oxide cell - used in cameras, toys, hearing aids, watches and calculators.

Due to environmental and safety concerns, silver-oxide batteries are beginning to replace lithium-ion batteries in mobile phones and laptop computers. Silver-zinc batteries feature a water based chemistry and contain no lithium or flammable liquids.


Steel ball bearings that are electroplated with silver have greater fatigue strength and load carrying capacity than any other type.

These bearings are used in continuous, heavy-duty applications such as in jet engines. Because steel has poor friction properties, placing a layer of silver between the steel ball bearing and the housing reduces friction, increasing the performance and reliability of the engine.

Brazing and Soldering

Silver facilitates the joining of materials, called brazing when done at temperatures above 600 degrees Celsius and soldering when below and produces naturally smooth, leak-tight and corrosion-resistant joints.

Silver brazing alloys are used widely in applications ranging from air-conditioning and refrigeration to electric power distribution. It is also used in the automobile and aerospace industries.

Silver brazes and solders combine high tensile strength, ductility and thermal conductivity. Silver-tin solders are used for bonding copper pipe in homes, where they not only eliminate the use of harmful lead-based solders, but also provide the piping with silver’s natural antibacterial action.

Major faucet manufacturers also use silver-based bonding materials to incorporate these advantages. Refrigerator manufacturers use silver based bonding materials to provide the ductility required for constant changes in temperature of the cooling tubes.

Due to health concerns, the traditional 63 percent tin/37 percent lead solder used to build electronic equipment is quickly being replaced by a combination of silver, tin and copper solder.

The movement was boosted by the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) legislation that applies throughout the European Union (EU). The law bans all products containing more than a trace amount of lead, mercury, cadmium and several other hazardous substances.

Although the laws apply only to EU countries, it is being felt worldwide as companies move to a safer solder.


Silver catalysts produce formaldehyde which is used to manufacture plywood for building construction.

A catalyst is a substance that facilitates a chemical process without itself undergoing any transformation, because of its unique chemical properties, silver is an important catalyst in the production of two major industrial chemicals.

More than 150 million ounces of silver annually are used in the world's chemical industry for the production of two compounds – ethylene oxide and formaldehyde, both are essential to the plastics industry.

Ethylene oxide is the foundation for flexible plastics such as polyester textiles, used to make all types of clothing. It is also used for molded items such as insulating handles for stoves, key tops for computers, electrical control knobs, domestic appliance components, and electrical connector housings.

About 25 percent of ethylene oxide production is used to produce antifreeze coolant for automobiles and other vehicles.

Formaldehyde, a chemical produced from methanol, is the building block of solid plastics including adhesives, laminating resins for construction plywood and particle board.


Because of its resistance to pitting and tarnish, silver is used to coat CDs and DVDs.

Silver has excellent electrical conductivity, it is used in many applications in electronics from printed circuit boards to switches and TV screens.

Silver membrane switches, which require only a light touch, are used in buttons on televisions, telephones, microwave ovens, toys and computer keyboards. These switches are highly reliable and last for millions of on/off cycles.

Silver based inks and films are used for printed circuit boards, used in consumer items from mobile phones to computers, to composite boards to create electrical pathways.

Silver based inks are also used to produce RFID tags (radio frequency identification) antennas used in hundreds of millions of products to prevent theft and allow easy inventory control. Silver is also used in the manufacturing process of Plasma Display Panels used in television sets and monitors.


Silver’s anti-bacterial powers have been tested and proven scientifically even though its power as a bactericide has been known for centuries. The ancient Phoenicians, for example, knew that water, wine or vinegar kept in silver vessels stayed fresh during long sea voyages.

However, only recently have scientists discovered how silver does its work. Silver interrupts a bacteria cell’s ability to form chemical bonds essential to its survival. These bonds produce the cell’s physical structure so bacteria in the presence of silver literally falls apart.

Cells in humans and other animals have thick walls and are not disturbed by silver. Therefore, silver prevents bacteria growth but is harmless to humans.

One of the most important uses of silver as a biocide is in hospitals and other health care facilities because they grapple with MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a type of life-threatening Staph germ. Also known as a ‘superbug,’ MRSA is resistant to almost all chemical antibiotics, so many hospitals are employing silver-embedded equipment including surgical tools, catheters, needles, stethoscopes, furniture, door handles and even paper files.

One of the most promising applications is in silver embedded bandages for burn and wound victims. The silver ions help prevent infection but also speed healing because the body doesn’t have to focus its energy on fighting infection.

Currently their is a surge of applications for silver-based biocides in all areas: industrial, commercial and consumer. The newest trend is the use of nano-silver particles to deliver silver ions.

Mirrors and Coatings

When polished, silver offers nearly perfect reflectivity which makes it ideal for energy-efficient windows. While silver coated mirrors have been around for hundreds of years. The coatings are extremely thin, almost transparent coating of silver on window panes not only reflects the heat of the sun, but deflects inward the room’s own internal heat.

Over 250 million square feet of silver coated glass is used for domestic windows in the U.S. annually and much more is employed for silver coated polyester sheet for retrofitting windows.

In addition, one of every seven pairs of prescription eyeglasses sold in the US incorporates silver. Silver halide crystals melted into the glass can change light transmission from 96% to 22% in less than 60 seconds and block at least 97% of the sun's ultraviolet rays.

These lenses are very popular as they allow people to move from indoor to outdoor activity and back again without the need to change eyeglasses.

Another increasing use of silver is in paints. Silver ions offer an anti-bacterial shield that keeps the coating germ and fungus free. This is particularly important in health care facilities, jails, schools, food and beverage factories and other places in which bacteria growth can be a health hazzard.

Solar Energy

Silver paste is used in 90 percent of all crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, which are the most common type of solar cell. Photovoltaic systems are simple and provide immediately useful power with no pollution.

Silver is used in another way to generate electricity by reflecting and concentrating solar energy onto collector tubes containing salts which are used to run generators. This heats the tubes and the nitrate salt inside them to over 1050 degrees F. The scalding hot salt is then piped to boilers, turning water to steam which drives steam turbines that run electric generators. They generate electricity to power 10,000 homes.

Water Purification

The major benefit in having silver-ion filter is that replaces traditional germ-killing methods that employ harsh, sometimes dangerous chemicals such as chlorine and bromine.

This is because silver ions prevent bacteria and algae buildup, silver is fast becoming part of water purification systems in hospitals, small community water systems, pools and spas.

The silver ion filter is also finding its way into personal water purification devices that are small, short tubes inserted into suspect water. With several different methods of water purification in this tube, often including a charcoal filter, silver’s role is to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi that could overwhelm the system and render it useless.

Purified water is becoming a scarcer commodity than gold in some aspects which is making the silver ion filter a much needed asset in the developed and emerging markets. 

Silver Supply and Demand

Interactive Historical Silver Price Chart

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Sources: Silver Supply and Demand 

The Silver Institute - Silver Statistics and Information 


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