LIMA -(Dow Jones)- Peru and Mexico are again jockeying for bragging rights as the world’s largest silver miner.
Both nations have long histories as silver producers dating back to before the Spanish era began. Mines from both nations helped fuel the Spanish empire from the sixteenth century.
For years Mexico was ahead of Peru, but the bustling mining industry in the Andean nation allowed it to pull ahead over the last 10 years.
A Mexican mining official threw down the gauntlet last week however. Jaime Lomelin, chief executive of the world’s biggest primary silver miner Fresnillo PLC (FRES.LN) said Mexicans should be “proud” that the country will once again be the top silver producer, but didn’t give a time frame.
Fresnillo said it expects to add between 4.5 million and 5 million troy ounces in 2011, to reach about 44 million troy ounces.
Last Thursday a director at Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, Henry Luna, said Peru’s production in 2011 should reach 131,455,159 troy ounces, or about 4, 089 metric tons, well up from the 3,637 tons produced in 2010.
Earlier this month Luna also said Peru should maintain its number one producer position over the next few years.
Although no forecast for Mexico’s 2011 production was immediately available, the latest figures show that up to November last year the country produced 2,848 tons, at a monthly production average of 258,919 kilograms.
Assuming December is the same, that would bring Mexico’s 2010 production to about 3,107 tons. To match Peru’s 2011 forecast it would have to add almost another 1,000 tons.
Interest in increasing production of silver has gone alongside rising prices.
“Silver is turning into a refuge metal,” said Michael DiRienzo, executive director of the Washington-based Silver Institute.
Industrial demand for silver is also boosting silver the silver price, he said.