Not just gold represents value for the global economy. Silver is also an important asset. It is distinguished by its relative rarity in nature and its wide range of applications. The metal has been a means of payment since ancient times, and not so long ago it became an investment metal as well. It is important to understand why Ag is so valuable: how silver is mined, how much of it is extracted from the bowels of the earth, and what the price of the material is.
The noble metal silver: application and value in the economy
Silver money has been around since ancient times. Historians offer different opinions about the factors that increased the popularity of this metal:
- special physical and chemical properties: luster, density, softness, fluidity, high reflectivity and thermal conductivity;
- industrial metal: a substantial portion of mined silver goes into production radio partsThe following are some of the most important features of our products: the creation of various coatings, chemical reactions, etc.;
- Relative rarity: silver occurs less frequently in nature than most other minerals;
- unique "money" properties: Ag has divisibility (the metal is divided into units of equivalent composition, which can be interchangeable), note its durability (resistance to corrosion), recognizability, good reputation, which allowed the material to become a means of savings;
- association with a high standard of living, because since ancient times metal has been used to make valuable, rare things that carry a special meaning (money, cult objects, symbols of power);
- stability, which makes silver a defensive asset: it is explained by its constant belonging to a certain price category.
The main areas of application of silver:
- chemical industry;
- jewellery industry;
- making contacts for various mechanisms;
- the production of reflective products;
- medals, awards;
- battery manufacturing;
- monetary, investment funds;
The grade and value of investment silver
Neither natural metal contained in the bowels of the earth nor material obtained by man by refining after mining is free of impurities. Some amount of additives is always present in the composition of the material. Their quantity defines the properties of silver: the less impurities, the softer the noble metal. However, it is difficult to use it in this form, because it does not hold its shape, it is damaged under the influence of loads. The most common impurities:
Due to the presence of various additives in the composition, it became necessary to classify metals according to the content of other components. Against this background, the historically established problem of distinguishing silver alloys found a solution in the form of a special marking on the surface of products.
There are standard Ag samples:
800, 830, 875, 925, 960, 999.
They determine the cost of materials.
Accordingly, the minimum amount of impurities contains silver 999 proof. It is less frequently used in industry than other types of alloys, but the pure metal is an excellent example of an investment metal. Its value is based on the length of the chain through which the precious metal reaches the consumer:
- Medium silver price (1200 rbl./oz.);
- mint markup;
- costs of intermediary companies;
- the amount of metal to be purchased;
- year of production silverware.
Types of white metal deposits
The consumer recognizes Ag by its grayish-white color and muted luster. But in nature, silver reserves are not so easy to find because of the less eye-catching appearance of the precious metal. When it is mined, its deposits resemble stone, pieces of old moss, and ordinary iron. This is due to the fact that the metal, although considered conditionally inert, interacts with various components. As a result, the material is coated with silver sulfide, iron hydroxide.
- vein and mineralized zones: gold and silver, copper, copper-potassium, and lead-zinc;
- polymetallic ores: silver is a by-product, i.e. contained in minimal amounts, the main metals are others (copper, nickel, cobalt, gold).
The world's top five silver miners
All known silver deposits in the world are believed to contain more than 600 thousand tons of the metal. Every year 22 thousand tons are mined. This amount is provided by several leading countries. Rating of the states mining the largest volumes of Ag:
- Mexico. The annual amount of precious metal is 6.1 thousand tons. The largest company is located here - Fresnillo. If you estimate the amount of silver, the production of this precious metal increased by 5.3% compared to the previous year.
- Peru (including the Andes). The volume of mined precious metal for the year - 4.3 thousand tons. It contains the largest number of deposits of Ag - 110 thousand tons. (this is only explored deposits).
- China - 3.6 thousand tons. The peculiarity of this country is the production of silver as a by-product of the extraction of other minerals. According to statistics, about 95% Ag was obtained this way.
- Poland - 1.3 thousand tons. The volume of mined precious metal annually grows by tens of tons. Poland ranks second (after Peru) by the number of explored deposits in the world.
- Chile - 1.3 thousand tons. Silver is most often a by-product of mining in the area. And in recent years, silver production has been slower.
Other silver producing countries
There are several other states that regularly increase the global volume of mined precious metal. Among them is Russia, but in recent years the amount of Ag lifted from the bowels of the earth has decreased slightly. Silver mining by small and medium-sized countries:
- Russia - 1.2 thousand tons;
- Australia - 1.2 thousand tons;
- Bolivia - 1.2 thousand tons;
- Argentina - 1.1 thousand tons;
- US - 0.9 thousand tons.
Table: World Silver Production and Reserves
The main silver reserves in the world are concentrated in several countries. The list of states with the largest amounts of the precious metal is shown below, and not all of them produce the same amount of Ag:
|Leading countries||Quantity of mined precious metal, thous. tons||Silver reserves, thousand tons|
Russia's position on the global silver market
There are more than 100 silver deposits in Russia. In terms of quantity RF precious metal reserves The rate of metal lifting into the ground is low, however. However, the rate of metal lifting from the bowels of the earth is low. In recent years, silver production in Russia has decreased. Now the annual volume barely reaches 1.19 thousand tons, and often even less.
Top five major silver mining companies in Russia
Most of the silver mines in Russia are owned by five companies. They are the ones that bring in more than 80% of the total amount of mined precious metal. And the productivity is growing every year. List of the largest mining companies:
- Polymetal. Owns 4 of the 5 largest mines. Most of the precious metal is mined in the Magadan, Sverdlovsk, and Khabarovsk regions. The annual volume of silver is about 800 tons.
- Chukotskaya GGK. The amount of precious metal obtained during the year is equal to 131 thousand tons. The company is developing several deposits. The largest ones are Kupol and Dvoinoye.
- Highland Gold Mining. The company is British, and Roman Abramovich has the main shareholding. The annual volume of silver - 37.5 tons. The main deposits are located in Khabarovsk, Transbaikal Territory.
- Amur Gold with assets in Africa, Russia and other countries. Produces 23 tons in 1 year and is part of the Russian Platinum Group.
- Nordgold. It mines precious metal in Yakutia, Buryatia, the Amur Region, and Transbaikalia.
Norilsk Nickel gives a large share. The company received 4.8 tons of silver during the year, but the metal is a by-product of other ore.
Silver regions of Russia
The main deposits are concentrated in the Urals, Siberia, and the Far East. The slow depletion of the main sources of Ag on the territory of Russia allows the silver mines to retain their value. For this reason, they are not depleted as quickly as in Europe and the southern regions of America.
The region is a leader in Ag production. Here is the Dukat mine, where 1/4 of all silver in Russia was produced. About half of the amount of Ag is mined on the territory of the Magadan region.
The main deposit is Kupol, where more than 13% of all silver in Russia is produced. Over the last year the amount of precious metal amounted to more than 100 tons. There is an increase of 2% compared to the previous reporting periods.
The average amount of mined precious metal is more than 100 tons, which is 6.3% of the total volume of silver in Russia. However, there is a decrease in the rate of Ag production relative to previous years. The main deposit is Khakanjinskoye. Silver and gold are mined in Khabarovsk Territory, so a significant part of Ag is a by-product.
Other Small Fields
There are more than 100 deposits of the precious metal. In addition to those given above, other sources of Ag account for a significant proportion. The names of the main of them are:
- Goltsovoye deposit;
How silver is formed in nature
Silver is a product of the interaction of various elements and compounds. Its emergence may be the result of one of the processes:
- decomposition of sulfur, arsenic, antimony ore, recovery of decomposition products under the influence of organic components;
- formation from magma, the precious metal is formed due to the process of crystallization under pressure;
- hydrothermal reaction - Ag is the result of exposure to crystals of quartz, carbonate and lead sulfide, the mining sites are underground, formed with the participation of hot aqueous solutions.
Rare nuggets. Compounds with silver
Most often, the precious metal is found in polymetallic deposits, where it is contained in the structure of other ore. However, sometimes quite large formations of Ag are found. The most famous of these are:
- Nugget weighing 20 tons was found in the Schneeberg deposit, near the town of Freiberg;
- Konsberg mine (Norway): a 254 kg nugget was found; it is in a museum in Copenhagen;
- Canada: a plate of silver weighing 612 kg, there was also found an even larger formation, known as the "silver sidewalk", has a length of 30 m, weighs 20 tons.
Given that nuggets are rare, polymetallic ore is often mined. Common Ag-based compounds:
- contains sulfur (argentite);
- gold (electrum);
- lead (galena);
- arsenic (prustite);
- antimony (pyrargyrite).
Secrets of silver detection
Note the main methods by which precious metal deposits are found:
- red rocks on the flattened top of the mountain;
- having found compounds of cobalt, nickel, antimony, sulfur, arsenic, and lead-tin ores, suggest that silver veins are also contained here.
The process of extracting natural raw materials
There are different ways to produce silver:
Of all the methods, only the open-pit method implies the need for surface operations. Less common is the offshore option, when the silver metal is mined below the seabed.
The average amount of silver in various rocks can reach 1 g/t, more than gold or platinum. Seawater contains up to 0.00004 g/t.
With the help of special equipment, as well as by inspection of the area, studying the structure, composition and properties of the ore, traces of the presence of the precious metal are detected. It is difficult to find silver flecks in the open area, because the material is covered with a layer of silver sulfide or iron hydroxide, oxides of other substances. This is the task of geologists, specialists make maps on which they mark all the deposits.
The technology of mining the precious metal is based on crushing the rock by explosion. The crushing must be carried out in a limited area and at a certain depth. To do this, specialists put explosives inside the prepared holes. At the next stage of extraction, TNT pellets are laid down.
Explosion. Ore Rising
You need to understand the sequence of actions. How silver is mined:
- Crushed ore is suitable for extraction, transportation. In comparison, previously the precious metal was contained in the rock. To raise it to the surface, we would have had to use improvised equipment and crush hard layers with our own hands, which is much more difficult.
- The crushed ore is lifted to the surface during mining and further crushed.
- It is sent to industrial enterprises, where it is refined and ingots are cast. The metal is prepared for the production of radio components, jewelry and other products, which is done in the next stage, when it is transferred to other plants.
The career method
The method is simpler, because it does not require the creation of underground structures or dangerous blasting operations at depth. The quarry begins to be developed if the ore body is as close to the surface as possible. Then a layer of soil is removed, and then valuable ore is taken away with the help of excavators.
The quarrying method suggests the need to use explosives only if there is an assumption that there is a new layer of ore with silver flecks nearby.
The method is in many ways similar to the mining method of precious metal. The difference is that, more often than not, it does not require sinking to a considerable depth and the construction of underground facilities. Geologists determine the boundaries of the site and the direction of the blast. Then drilling rigs start to work, after which explosives are laid.
In winter, mining is most often stopped, because water is involved in the process - it freezes. Alternatively, continuous operation of the equipment, as downtime will lead to icing of the equipment, the ground.
If you wonder where silver is mined, the answer may be unexpected - in reservoirs. So far, this industry is only developing. They are studying the feasibility and profitability of the project. But the idea is already being implemented, which was facilitated by the study of the issue - there are a lot of minerals on the seabed, and the need to dive under the water is caused by the forthcoming development of many deposits.
The obtained precious metal in the Russian Federation and all over the world cannot be used without additional processing. Most often, the material is purified by chemistry, i.e. the reaction with other compounds. The temperature method is also used. The main purpose is the transformation of materials, which allows us to change the formula of argentum and isolate it from the rock.
Writer Vitaly Rekhlov contributed to the clarification of history. He disseminated information about the true discoverer of Kuznetsk coal in Russia. He was a certain Mikhaylo Volkov, a miner who went in search of silver ore along with most of his comrades, which was facilitated by the decree of Peter the Great "on the search and extraction of valuable metals".
- Dissolution, for which cyanide alkali is used.
- Introduction of zinc powder.
- Fusion after mining. The solid precipitate is composed of silver particles. Under the influence of high temperature, a melt is obtained, which is sent to the plant for purification.
Amalgamation with mercury
The metal is passed through a solution of mercury, it is crushed beforehand. As a result, the material changes shape - it becomes fluid. The resulting mass undergoes a squeezing procedure. The mercury is separated, leaving a solid residue that is melted down to obtain working material and further purification.
Silver mining in the world is carried out at polymetallic deposits. This forces the use of different methods to separate Ag from the rest of the rock:
- Parkes and Pattison process.
As a result, compounds of a certain type are obtained: containing zinc, lead, copper. At this stage, materials are used to separate silver inclusions, and methods are used for this purpose:
Flotation after grinding
Getting the precious metal is only half the battle, because it is part of the ore. It is still necessary to recover the argentum. To do this, they use the method of flotation - purification with liquid. But before that, the rock must be crushed. In terms of cost and ease of implementation, this technology is considered the best.
Given the large scale of purification of the precious metal from the rock after mining, it is necessary to use the most efficient methods. Affinity - one of these. Its main types are:
- electrolytic - silver nitrate and nitric acid are used, the anode is contaminated Ag, the cathode - stainless steel;
- chemical: silver chloride and sodium carbonate are mixed and Ag precipitates.
Alloying into ingots
When a partially refined precious metal is obtained, it is not refined on the spot, but diverted to refineries. To deliver them, the material is cast into ingots. If the argentum is obtained during the gold miningThe alloy will contain a substantial amount of the two metals. It is called "doré. The ingots are melted down in the factory to purify them of impurities. When the precious metal contains a minimum of impurities, it is also remelted into ingots and sent to factories for the production of various products.
Dynamics of silver mining for the last 5 years in the world, Russia
Over the past millennia, miners have used various methods to precious metal mining, were looking for new sites for the development of deposits: the Amazon River, the Nile, the Congo - on the banks and adjacent territories, and Attica Greece, in the Urals, the Far East, etc. When companies emerged, the volume of argentum increased many times around the world and Russia. The change can be seen in the graph.
Home ways of silver mining
Different methods are used:
- in laboratories use equations of reactions: Ag is reduced from ammonia solutions based on salts (diamine-silver hydroxide), the interaction with the reducing agent gives an opportunity to obtain argentum (black precipitate);
- at home they recover the precious metal from the spent photographic solution (fixer).
You can find quite a few items that contain a substantial amount of Ag:
- radio components of various kinds, such as relays (silver contacts);
- contact parts or plating of the body, other items.
Methods of extraction
Available methods, their implementation:
- Sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid (ratio 19:1,2). The temperature of the solution is +80°C. Silver is separated by acidification with hydrochloric acid or by introducing an equivalent proportion of zinc dust, the precipitate is cleaned and dried.
- Electrolyte solution and hydrochloric acid. The part is immersed in the substance, extracted after 1 day, the solid precipitate is separated, treated again with hydrochloric acid, and then washed.
Widespread use of silver alloy
The purity of the material can be different, which depends on many factors, among them the area of use of the silverware:
- Jewelry production: about 20% of Argentum is sent to factories to make jewelry, accessories, which can then be purchased in jewelry and online stores, this alloy contains copper or platinum to improve the properties, making the metal attractive;
- Medicine, dentistry: Argentum is widely used for coating various products, is part of the preparations, is used in dentistry (silvering, prosthetics) due to its antibacterial properties;
- industry: Ag is used in the production of batteries, radio components, contact parts of mechanisms;
- glass production: the silvering method is used, resulting in a variety of reflective surfaces;
- defense industry, for example, Ag contain elements of gas masks;
- Computer and electrical engineering: the main is the production of contact material, parts for the production of microcircuits;
- forensics: traces of the perpetrator are detected with silver nitrate, which allows us to detect sweat substances on surfaces.