Visualizing the Global Silver Supply Chain
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Visualizing the Global Silver Supply Chain

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The following content is sponsored by Blackrock Silver.

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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The Road to Decarbonization: How Asphalt is Affecting the Planet

The U.S. alone generates ∼12 million tons of asphalt shingles tear-off waste and installation scrap every year and more than 90% of it is dumped into landfills.

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Road to Decarbonization - How Asphalt is Affecting the Planet

The Road to Decarbonization: How Asphalt is Affecting the Planet

Asphalt, also known as bitumen, has various applications in the modern economy, with annual demand reaching 110 million tons globally.

Until the 20th century, natural asphalt made from decomposed plants accounted for the majority of asphalt production. Today, most asphalt is refined from crude oil.

This graphic, sponsored by Northstar Clean Technologies, shows how new technologies to reuse and recycle asphalt can help protect the environment.

The Impact of Climate Change

Pollution from vehicles is expected to decline as electric vehicles replace internal combustion engines.

But pollution from asphalt could actually increase in the next decades because of rising temperatures in some parts of the Earth. When subjected to extreme temperatures, asphalt releases harmful greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere.

Emissions from Road Construction (Source) CO2 equivalent (%)
Asphalt 28%
Concrete18%
Excavators and Haulers16%
Trucks13%
Crushing Plant 10%
Galvanized Steel 6%
Reinforced Steel6%
Plastic Piping 2%
Geotextile1%

Asphalt paved surfaces and roofs make up approximately 45% and 20% of surfaces in U.S. cities, respectively. Furthermore, 75% of single-family detached homes in Canada and the U.S. have asphalt shingles on their roofs.

Reducing the Environmental Impact of Asphalt

Similar to roads, asphalt shingles have oil as the primary component, which is especially harmful to the environment.

Shingles do not decompose or biodegrade. The U.S. alone generates ∼12 million tons of asphalt shingles tear-off waste and installation scrap every year and more than 90% of it is dumped into landfills, the equivalent of 20 million barrels of oil.

But most of it can be reused, rather than taking up valuable landfill space.

Using technology, the primary components in shingles can be repurposed into liquid asphalt, aggregate, and fiber, for use in road construction, embankments, and new shingles.

Providing the construction industry with clean, sustainable processing solutions is also a big business opportunity. Canada alone is a $1.3 billion market for recovering and reprocessing shingles.

Northstar Clean Technologies is the only public company that repurposes 99% of asphalt shingles components that otherwise go to landfills.

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A Visual Guide to the Science Behind Cultured Meat

Cultured meat could become a $25 billion market by 2030, but investment into the technologies that underpin the industry is required.

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A Visual Guide to the Science Behind Cultured Meat

Cultured foods—also known as cell-based foods—are expected to turn our global food system as we know it on its head.

In fact, the cultured meat market is estimated to reach an eye-watering $25 billion by 2030 according to McKinsey, but only if it can overcome hurdles such as price parity and consumer acceptance. To do so, significant innovation in the science behind these products will be crucial for the industry’s growth.

In the graphic above from our sponsor CULT Food Science, we provide a visual overview of some of the technologies behind the creation of cultured meat products.

What is Cultured Meat?

To start, cultured meat is defined as a genuine animal meat product that is created by cultivating animal cells in a controlled lab environment—eliminating the need to farm animals for food almost entirely.

“Cultured meat has all the same fat, muscles, and tendons as any animal…All this can be done with little or no greenhouse gas emissions, aside from the electricity you need to power the land where the process is done.”
—Bill Gates

Because cultured meat is made of the same cell types and structure found in animal tissue, the sensory and nutritional profiles are like-for-like. Let’s dive into how these products are made.

The Science and Technology Behind Cultured Meat

The main challenge facing the cultured meat market is producing products at scale. But thanks to the vast amount of research in the stem cell biology space, the science behind cultured foods is not entirely new.

Given that we are in the very early days of applying these learnings to producing food products, those looking to invest in companies contributing to the industry’s growth stand to benefit. Here is an overview of some of the technologies that underpin the industry that you should know:

1. Bioprocess Design

This is the process of using living cells and their components to create new products. According to experts like the Good Food Institute, bioprocess design holds the key to unlocking cultured meat production at scale.

Specifically, innovation in bioreactor (where the cells grow) design represents a massive opportunity for companies and investors alike.

2. Tissue Engineering

Tissue engineering techniques are used to produce cultured meat that resembles real meat textures and flavors. The first step is taking tissue from the animal for the purpose of extracting stem cells and creating cell lines.

The extracted stem cell lines are then cultivated in a nutrient rich environment, mimicking in-animal tissue growth and producing muscle fibers inside a bioreactor. The muscle fibers are processed and mixed with additional fats and ingredients to assemble the finished meat product.

3. Cell Lines

Cell lines refer to the different types of cells that can be propagated repeatedly and sometimes indefinitely.

Access to cell lines is a major challenge facing the industry today and is an area that requires significantly more research. This is because there is not just one cell type that can be used in cellular agriculture to produce cultured food products.

4. Cell Culture Media

Cells (or cell cultures) require very specific environmental conditions. Cell culture media is a gel or liquid that contains the nutrients needed to support growth outside of the body.

More research in this space is needed to determine optimized formulations and make these products more affordable.

5. Scaffolding

Scaffolds are 3D cell culture platforms that mimic the structure of complex biological tissues, such as skeletal muscle. This platforms can be created through the use of 3D Bioprinting.

Scaffolds are predominantly made up of collagen and gelatin. The problem is these are both animal-derived ingredients which defeats the purpose of cell-based products. Therefore, more sustainable plant-derived options are also being explored.

Investing in the Future of Cultured Meat

CULT Food Science is an innovative investment platform advancing the technology behind the future of food with an exclusive focus on cultured meat, cultured dairy, and cell-based foods.

The company’s global portfolio spans four continents and includes exposure to a diverse pipeline:

  • Cell lines
  • End products
  • Scaffolding technology
  • Growth medium
  • Intellectual property

>>>Want to stay updated? Click here to subscribe to the CULT Food Science mailing list.

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