The rising industrial demand for silver, spurred by technologies like solar power, has led top silver producers to advocate for the metal's inclusion in Canada and the U.S.'s critical minerals lists. In a collective effort, CEOs from 19 mining companies, including industry leaders like Coeur Mining, Hecla Mining, and First Majestic Silver, have reached out to Canadian Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson, highlighting the strategic value of recognizing silver as a critical mineral.
This move aligns with the ongoing public commentary period initiated by Natural Resources Canada in December 2023 to update the country's Critical Minerals list, emphasizing the transition to a "low carbon and digital economy."
Push for silver's critical status
The letter from the miners underscores silver's unparalleled electrical and thermal conductivity and reflectivity, making it indispensable for various industrial and technological uses. With global silver demand in 2023 reaching 1,167 million ounces, half for industrial applications and a significant 14% for photovoltaics, the push for silver's critical status gains momentum. The metal's role in nuclear reactors further accentuates its importance, especially as Canada commits to expanding nuclear energy capacity by 2050 at COP28, predicting a rise in demand for silver.
Moreover, the application of silver in electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids as electric contacts and connectors points to an expected increase in demand as the automotive industry progresses towards electrification. The mining CEOs argue that misconceptions about silver's availability have hindered its recognition as a critical mineral despite academic consensus on potential supply bottlenecks and increased demand posing a risk to the low-carbon economy transition.
Reevaluation of Silver's status
Anticipation grows for Canada's new critical minerals list, expected before summer 2024, with the mining community urging a reevaluation of silver's status. Concurrently, in the U.S., concerns have been raised to the House of Representatives and the Department of Energy (DOE) regarding excluding silver from the critical minerals list due to the US Geological Survey's (USGS) methodology. The National Mining Association and the Silver Institute have also highlighted the discrepancy between silver's proven reserves and the escalating demand, suggesting that recycling alone won't meet future needs.
As Canada and the U.S. assess their critical minerals lists and methodologies, which are expected to be updated by 2025, the silver industry watches closely, advocating for a reconsideration of silver's critical status to align with both countries' sustainable and technological advancement goals.
Source: Coeur Mining, Hecla Mining, and First Majestic Silver have reached out to the Canadian Minister of Energy and Natural Resources