Mining in Latin America - Statistics and Facts

Latin America is an emerging economy in a diversity of sectors, but its significance in the mining industry has long been established. The first records of commercial exploitation of mineral resources in the region date back to the early 16th century, under the Spanish and Portuguese colonial rule. Despite having been heavily exploited for silver and gold for more than three centuries during European colonization, Latin America still stands out in the production of precious metals. Peru is home to the world’s second largest silver reserves, while Mexico ranks sixth. These two countries, together with Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina made the region responsible for more than half the amount of silver produced worldwide in 2018. Similarly, Peru, Mexico and Brazil are all amongst the global ranking of gold producing nations.

The region is also important in the base metals segment, as two Latin American countries hold the first and second positions in the global copper production ranking. Chile, the largest copper producer in the world, extracted nearly six million tons of copper in 2018. Chilean state-owned company Codelco contributed alone to around one third of the country’s copper production that year, and was the largest copper producing company worldwide.

In terms of nickel production, Brazil stands out in the global market, with Brazilian mining company Vale being responsible for ten percent of the metal's global production in 2018. Nonetheless, Brazil's prominence in the mining sector lies in the ferrous industry. The country was the second largest iron ore mine producer in the world in 2018, with almost half a billion metric tons produced, only behind Australia. The iron ore production of Vale alone was larger than the entire production of China in 2018. The company generated a revenue of around 35 billion U.S. dollars in that same year, making it the largest mining company in Latin America, based on revenue.

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Mining in Latin America

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