Top producers of silver are pushing for the inclusion of the metal on the list of critical minerals in Canada and the US.
In a letter sent on Wednesday to the Canadian Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, the CEOs of 19 miners, including top producers Coeur Mining, Hecla Mining, and First Majestic Silver, say that considering silver a critical mineral would position the country to be a supplier of choice for strategic allies.
In December 2023, Natural Resources Canada opened a public commentary period for proposed updates to Canada’s Critical Minerals list and methodology. One of the criteria used is that the mineral must be necessary for the national transition into a “low carbon and digital economy”.
“Silver is identified as the best electrical conductor, the best metallic thermal conductor, and the best reflective material. These qualities make silver an essential and irreplaceable component for many industrial and technological applications,” the letter reads.
The demand for technologies such as solar power has led to increasing industrial demand for silver.
In 2023, global silver demand was estimated to be 1,167 million ounces (Moz), of which 576.4Moz (50%) was industrial use. Photovoltaics demanded 161.1 Moz in 2023, or 14% of the global silver demand.
Silver is also a common component of nuclear reactors. In the letter, the miners argue that with Canada joining other countries at COP28 to commit to tripling nuclear energy capacity by 2050, the demand for silver in nuclear is also likely to increase.
The metal is also used in electric contacts and connectors in EVs and hybrids. As fleets increasingly move toward electrification, demand for silver in the automotive industry is expected to increase.
In the letter, the mining CEOs say that a misconception about silver availability is the main reason why the metal has been excluded as a critical mineral.
“Researchers from around the globe have raised the alarm that silver is a potential bottleneck in the transition to a low-carbon economy due to supply limitations, disruptions to supply chain, competition for other uses, and increased demand,”
“Unfortunately, the reputation of silver as a readily available, budget-friendly precious metal has led to misconceptions that have to date blocked policy alignment with academic consensus.”
A new list of critical minerals for Canada is expected to be published before summer 2024.
According to Jillian Lennartz, director, ESG for First Majestic Silver, written questions about the methodology adopted by the US Geological Survey have also been submitted to a House of Representatives subcommittee expressing concerns about the USGS’s methodology for its critical minerals list and offering suggestions for improvement.
“We also had direct calls with the Department of Energy (DOE) about their most recent assessment and expressed our concern with silver’s omission. They admitted that based on their methodology silver was not quantitatively assessed, and requested we submit our concerns in writing for their review,” Lennartz told MINING.COM.
The National Mining Association and the Silver Institute also sent a letter to the DOE in October last year arguing that the amount of silver in proved or probable reserves does not meet the projected demand and that silver recycling is unlikely to provide a significant material stream.
Questioned about a possible inclusion of silver, a source at the USGS said that all minerals for the 2025 list are being evaluated based on formulas. The list and methodology are expected to be released in the federal register later this year.