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More Trouble in Mexico: Second Largest Silver Mine Suspended Operations

According to the article, Goldcorp using excessive water at Peñasquito mine – critics, research by McGill Research Group, reported that the Penasquito Mine was using three times the amount of water than it originally agreed upon.  Furthermore, the large open-pit gold-silver mine, located in the state of Zacatecas, was also consuming three times the amount of water supplied to the entire City of Zacatecas (population 129,000).

To get an idea the amount of water being consumed by the Penasquito Mine, I looked at the data from Goldcorp’s most recent Sustainability Report. In 2017, the Penasquito Mine withdrew a staggering 7.9 billion gallons of water to supply its operations for the year.  Of that total amount, 93% came from groundwater. That is one hell of a lot of water.

The real problem at Penasquito comes down the massive amount of water it consumes to process the enormous amount of ore it mines. For example, the Penasquito Mine, which produced 18.3 Moz of silver in 2018, processed a stunning 35.2 million tons of ore to get that silver. Yes, it’s true that the Penasquito Mine is mainly a gold producer, but it still provides a great deal of silver.

Here we can see that Penasquito, producing 18.2 Moz of silver, processed more ore (35.2 million tons) compared to all the other primary silver miners in the group (11.8 million tons). Thus, the Penasquito Mine processed three times more ore to supply six times less the silver from all the other primary silver miners (72.4 Moz).

The Penasquito Mine’s average gold yield last year was a minuscule 0.24 grams a ton, and the silver yield was only 16 grams per ton.  Compare that to the average gold yield of the top four gold miners at 1.26 grams per ton in 2017 and the top eight silver miners average yield of 233 grams per ton. Which means, the Penasquito Mine has to move five times the amount of ore to produce the same amount of gold as the top four gold miners and a 15 times more ore than the top eight silver miners.

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