Commodities Buzz: Two Mines Supply Half Of U.S. Silver Production And The Real Cost To Produce Silver

Just two mines supply the United States with half of its silver production, and both are located in Alaska. Its quite amazing that Alaska now produces half of the silver for the U.S. when only 30 years ago total mine supply from the state was less than 50,000 oz per year. The silver produced in Alaska comes from the Greens Creek and Red Dog Mines. One is a primary silver mine and the other a zinc-lead base metal mine.

Even though Heclas Greens Creek Mine is labeled as a primary silver mine, 56% of its revenues come from its gold, zinc, and lead metal sales. However, Teck Resources, that runs the Red Dog Mine doesnt even list its silver production in its financial reports. Because Red Dog produces one heck of a lot of zinc and lead, their silver production doesnt amount to much in the way of revenues.

For example, the Red Dog Mine produced 542,000 metric tons (1.1 billion pounds) of zinc and 110,000 metric tons (222 million pounds) of lead, while its estimated silver production was 6.6 million oz (Moz). According to Tecks 2017 Annual Report, total revenues from the Red Dog Mine were $ 1.75 billion. With the estimated silver price of $ 17 in 2017, total revenues from 6.6 Moz of silver were $ 112 million, or just 6% of the total.

In addition, Heclas Greens Creek Mine in Alaska produced 8.4 Moz of silver this year, down from 9.2 Moz in 2016. As I mentioned, the Greens Creek Mine also generated a lot of gold, zinc, and lead, equaling $ 182 million of the total revenues of $ 326 million.