History of the Silver State: Nevada and its Silver Districts - Visual Capitalist
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History of the Silver State: Nevada and its Silver Districts

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The following content is sponsored by Blackrock Gold.

Nevada Silver Districts
Nevada Silver Districts

History of the Silver State: Nevada and its Silver Districts

Nevada and its silver districts built the western territory into a modern American state.

Today, the world best knows Nevada for its modern gold production—however, a new generation is rediscovering Nevada’s famous silver districts and their potential.

This infographic comes to us from Blackrock Gold and outlines the history of Nevada and its legendary silver districts.

A Timeline of Nevada’s Famous Silver Districts

The Paiute, Shoshone, Quoeech, Washoe, and Walapai tribes populated the territory that is now the American state of Nevada before the Europeans arrived in the 18th century.

Nevada became part of the Spanish Empire as part of the greater province of New Spain, and then later Mexico after independence. As a result of the Mexican–American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico permanently lost Alta California in 1848.

The United States continued to administer the area as a territory. As part of the Mexican Cession in 1848 and then the California Gold Rush, the state’s area was first part of the Utah Territory, then the Nevada Territory in 1861.

However, the great Comstock mining boom of 1859 in Virginia City consolidated the area as part of the United States. Silver discoveries and mining spurred development and statehood, all by uncovering the famous silver districts of Nevada.

An eccentric Canadian from Trenton, Ontario, Henry Comstock gave his last name to a discovery that launched mining in Nevada. In 1859, Comstock revealed his discovery and sparked a silver rush, sending thousands of prospectors into Nevada and becoming the genesis of Nevada’s mining industry.

Accidental Treasure: The Tonopah Silver District

Over time, miners exhausted the initial discoveries of silver until the Tonopah District in 1900 revived silver mining in the state.

As the legend goes, Jim Butler discovered the Tonopah district and its silver-rich ore. He went looking for a pack mule that wandered off in the night and sought shelter near a rock outcropping.

When Butler discovered the animal the next morning, he picked up a rock to throw at it in frustration and noticed the rock was heavy. He had stumbled upon the second-richest silver strike in all of Nevada’s history.

Silver production exploded in Tonopah and peaked at 450,000 ounces a year in 1915. However, between World War 1, the Great Depression, and World War 2, the country was exhausted of workers, and silver production tumbled by 1950.

The early suspension of mining in the region left it ripe for new exploration and discovery.

Unrealized Potential in Nevada for Silver Discovery

Today the bulk of the current mining in Nevada occurs along the Cortez and Carlin gold trends in the northeast. However the state’s earliest discoveries lie in what is known as the Walker Lane Trend that extends the entire western border of the state.

Several companies have taken note and are applying modern exploration to a neglected area for a new generation of silver discovery, and the Tonopah lies at the center of the Walker Lane Trend.

It is in the Tonopah Silver district where the past of Nevada lies—and the future will, too.

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Visualizing the Global Silver Supply Chain

Nearly 50% of global silver production comes from South and Central America. Here’s a look at the global silver supply chain.

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silver supply chain

Visualizing the Global Silver Supply Chain

Although silver is widely known as a precious metal, its industrial uses accounted for more than 50% of silver demand in 2020.

From jewelry to electronics, various industries utilize silver’s high conductivity, aesthetic appeal, and other properties in different ways. With the adoption of electric vehicles, 5G networks, and solar panels, the world is embracing more technologies that rely on silver.

But behind all this silver are the companies that mine and refine the precious metal before it reaches other industries.

The above infographic from Blackrock Silver outlines silver’s global supply chain and brings the future of silver supply into the spotlight.

The Top 20 Countries for Silver Mining

Although silver miners operate in many countries across the globe, the majority of silver comes from a few regions.

RankCountry2020 Production (million ounces)% of Total
1Mexico 🇲🇽 178.122.7%
2Peru 🇵🇪 109.714.0%
3China 🇨🇳 108.613.8%
4Chile 🇨🇱 47.46.0%
5Australia 🇦🇺 43.85.6%
6Russia 🇷🇺 42.55.4%
7Poland 🇵🇱 39.45.0%
8United States 🇺🇸 31.74.0%
9Bolivia 🇧🇴 29.93.8%
10Argentina 🇦🇷 22.92.9%
11India 🇮🇳 21.62.8%
12Kazakhstan 🇰🇿 17.32.2%
13Sweden 🇸🇪 13.41.7%
14Canada 🇨🇦 9.31.2%
15Morocco 🇲🇦 8.41.1%
16Indonesia 🇮🇩 8.31.1%
17Uzbekistan 🇺🇿 6.30.8%
18Papua New Guinea 🇵🇬 4.20.5%
19Dominican Republic 🇩🇴 3.80.5%
20Turkey 🇹🇷 3.60.5%
N/ARest of the World 🌎 34.24.4%
N/ATotal784.4100%

Mexico, Peru, and China—the top three producers—combined for just over 50% of global silver production in 2020. South and Central American countries, including Mexico and Peru, produced around 390 million ounces—roughly half of the 784 million ounces mined globally.

Silver currency backed China’s entire economy at one point in history. Today, China is not only the third-largest silver producer but also the third-largest largest consumer of silver jewelry.

Poland is one of only three European countries in the mix. More than 99% of Poland’s silver comes from the KGHM Polska Miedź Mine, the world’s largest silver mining operation.

While silver’s supply chain spans all four hemispheres, concentrated production in a few countries puts it at risk of disruptions.

The Sustainability of Silver’s Supply Chain

The mining industry can often be subject to political crossfire in jurisdictions that aren’t safe or politically stable. Mexico, Chile, and Peru—three of the top five silver-producing nations—have the highest number of mining conflicts in Latin America.

Alongside production in politically unstable jurisdictions, the lack of silver-primary mines reinforces the need for a sustainable silver supply chain. According to the World Silver Survey, only 27% of silver comes from silver-primary mines. The other 73% is a by-product of mining for other metals like copper, zinc, gold, and others.

As the industrial demand for silver rises, primary sources of silver in stable jurisdictions will become more valuable—and Nevada is one such jurisdiction.

Nevada: The Silver State

Nevada, known as the Silver State, was once the pinnacle of silver mining in the United States.

The discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859, one of America’s richest silver deposits, spurred a silver rush in Nevada. But after the Comstock Lode mines began declining around 1874, it was the Tonopah district that brought Nevada’s silver production back to life.

Tonopah is a silver-primary district with a 100:1 silver-to-gold ratio. It also boasts 174 million ounces of historical silver production under its belt. Furthermore, between 1900 and 1950, Tonopah produced high-grade silver with an average grade of 1,384 grams per tonne. However, the Second World War brought a stop to mining in Tonopah, with plenty of silver left to discover.

Today, Nevada is the second-largest silver-producing state in the U.S. and the Tonopah district offers the opportunity to revive a secure and stable source of primary silver production for the future.

Blackrock Silver is working to bring silver back to the Silver State with exploration at its flagship Tonopah West project in Nevada.

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A Complete Visual Guide to Carbon Markets

Carbon markets are booming. But how do they work? In this infographic, we show how carbon markets are advancing corporate climate ambitions.

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Carbon Markets

A Complete Visual Guide to Carbon Markets

Carbon markets enable the trading of carbon credits, also referred to as carbon offsets.

One carbon credit is equivalent to one metric ton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Going further, carbon markets help companies offset their emissions and work towards their climate goals. But how exactly do carbon markets work?

In this infographic from Carbon Streaming Corporation, we look at the fundamentals of carbon markets and why they show significant growth potential.

What Are Carbon Markets?

For many companies, such as Microsoft, Delta, Shell and Gucci, carbon markets play an important role in offsetting their impact on the environment and meeting climate targets.

Companies buy a carbon credit, which funds a GHG reduction project such as reforestation. This allows the company to offset their GHG emissions. There are two main types of carbon markets, based on whether emission reductions are mandatory, or voluntary:

Compliance Markets:
Mandatory systems regulated by government organizations to cap emissions for specific industries.

Voluntary Carbon Markets:
Where carbon credits can be purchased by those that voluntarily want to offset their emissions.

As demand to cut emissions intensifies, voluntary carbon market volume has grown five-fold in less than five years.

Drivers of Carbon Market Demand

What factors are behind this surge in volume?

  • Paris Agreement: Companies seeking alignment with these goals.
  • Technological Gaps: Companies are limited by technologies that are available at scale and not cost-prohibitive.
  • Time Gaps: Companies do not have the means to eliminate all emissions today.
  • Shareholder Pressure: Companies are facing pressure from shareholders to address their emissions.

For these reasons, carbon markets are a useful tool in decarbonizing the global economy.

Voluntary Markets 101

To start, there are four key participants in voluntary carbon markets:

  • Project Developers: Teams who design and implement carbon offset projects that generate carbon credits.
  • Standards Bodies: Organizations that certify and set the criteria for carbon offsets e.g. Verra and the Gold Standard.
  • Brokers: Intermediaries facilitating carbon credit transactions between buyers and project developers.
  • End Buyers: Entities such as individuals or corporations looking to offset their carbon emissions through purchasing carbon credits.

Secondly, carbon offset projects fall within one of two main categories.

Avoidance / reduction projects prevent or reduce the release of carbon into the atmosphere. These may include avoided deforestation or projects that preserve biomass.

Removal / sequestration projects, on the other hand, remove carbon from the atmosphere, where projects may focus on reforestation or direct air capture.

In addition, carbon offset projects may offer co-benefits, which provide advantages that go beyond carbon reduction.

What are Co-Benefits?

When a carbon project offers co-benefits, it means that they provide features on top of carbon credits, such as environmental or economic characteristics, that may align with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Here are some examples of co-benefits a project may offer:

  • Biodiversity: Protecting local wildlife that would otherwise be endangered through deforestation.
  • Social: Promoting gender equality through supporting women in management positions and local business development.
  • Economic: Creating job opportunities in local communities.
  • Educational: Providing educational awareness of carbon mitigation within local areas, such as primary and secondary schools.

Often, companies are looking to buy carbon credits that make the greatest sustainable impact. Co-benefits can offer additional value that simultaneously address broader climate challenges.

Why Market Values Are Increasing

In 2021, market values in voluntary carbon markets are set to exceed $1 billion.

YearTraded Volume of Carbon Offsets (MtCO₂e)Voluntary Market Transaction Value
201746$146M
201898$296M
2019104$320M
2020188$473M
2021*239$748M

*As of Aug. 31, 2021
Source: Ecosystem Marketplace (Sep 2021)

Today, oil majors, banks, and airlines are active players in the market. As corporate climate targets multiply, future demand for carbon credits is projected to jump 15-fold by 2030 according to the Task Force on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets.

What Qualifies as a High-Quality Carbon Offset?

Here are five key criteria for examining the quality of a carbon offset:

  • Additionality: Projects are unable to exist without revenue derived from carbon credits.
  • Verification: Monitored, reported, and verified by a credible third-party.
  • Permanence: Carbon reduction or removal will not be reversed.
  • Measurability: Calculated according to scientific data through a recognized methodology.
  • Avoid Leakage: An increase in emissions should not occur elsewhere, or account for any that do occur.

In fact, the road to net-zero requires a 23 gigatonne (GT) annual reduction in CO₂ emissions relative to current levels. High quality offsets can help meet this goal.

Fighting Climate Change

As the urgency to tackle global emissions accelerates, demand for carbon credits is poised to increase substantially—bringing much needed capital to innovative projects.

Not only do carbon credits fund nature-based projects, they also finance technological advancements and new innovations in carbon removal and reduction. For companies looking to reach their climate ambitions, carbon markets will continue to play a more concrete role.

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