The history of silver mining in the world began about 5,000 years ago, according to The Silver Institute.
Silver was first mined around 3,000 BC. C. in Anatolia, now located in present-day Turkey. The precious metal helped the early civilizations of the Near East and Ancient Greece to flourish.
In approximately 1,200 a. C., the center of silver production moved to the Laurium mines of Greece, where it continued to feed the growing empires of the region, even providing currency for ancient Athens.
Then around 100 AD. C., the center of the mining of this metal moved to Spain, where the mines became an important supplier of the Roman Empire and an essential commercial component along the routes of Asian spices.
However, continues The Silver Institute, no other event in the history of silver rivals the discovery by European conquerors of this metal in the Americas after Columbus’ landing in the New World in 1492. The events that unfolded in the Following years changed the face of silver and the world forever.
The Spanish conquest of the Americas led to an increase in extraction that drastically eclipsed everything that had occurred before that time.
Between 1500 and 1800, Bolivia, Peru, and Mexico accounted for more than 85% of world silver production and trade, as it reinforced Spanish influence in the New World and elsewhere.
Later, mining spread to other countries, most notably the United States with the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada.
Production continued to expand around the world, growing from 40 to 80 million ounces annually in the 1870s.
The period from 1876 to 1920 saw an explosion in both technological innovation and the exploitation of new regions around the world. Production during the last quarter of the 19th century quadrupled over the average of the first 75 years to a total of nearly 120 million ounces annually.
New discoveries in Australia, Central America and Europe added to total world production. The 20 years between 1900 and 1920 resulted in a 50% increase in world production and brought the total to approximately 190 million ounces a year. These increases were driven by new discoveries in Canada, the United States, Africa, Mexico, Chile, Japan and elsewhere.
During the 1900s, new mining techniques contributed to a massive increase in total production of this mineral. Advances included steam-assisted drilling, mine dewatering, and improved transportation.
Furthermore, advances in mining techniques improved the ability to separate silver from other minerals and made it possible to handle larger volumes of material.
These new methods were instrumental in increasing the volume of production, as many of the high-grade minerals around the world had been largely depleted by the late 1800s.