The Geography Behind Silver Mining in Mexico

Silver mining in Mexico dates back centuries. In fact, there is documented evidence showing
that silver mining occurred in Zacatecas, Mexico approximately 500 years ago.

Mexico leads the world in silver production and so it’s not surprising that the country has a
rich and fascinating history of silver mining.

Silver Mining in Mexico

Even though it is believed that Peru has the largest silver reserves, Mexico produced 6,300
metric tons of silver in 2019, with Peru second at 3,800 metric tons. Mexico’s silver mining
industry is valued at US$17.8 billion and is expected to grow by 3.3 percent per year.

Much of the silver production in Mexico is located in Zacatecas, which leads the country with
36.4% of the total silver production. Silver produced in metric tons by states as of 2020 are as

● Zacatecas – 2,124 metric tons
● Chihuahua – 1,217
● Durango – 820
● Sonora – 632
● Oaxaca – 299
● State of Mexico – 201
● San Luis Potosi – 131
● Coahuila – 96
● Guanajuato – 70
● Hidalgo – 68
● Sinaloa – 62
● Jalisco – 62
● All other states produce 55.85 metric tons

History of Silver Mining in Mexico

In 1542, there were already silver mines in the state of Guerrero, specifically around Taxco. So
many trees were cut down that Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza limited the clearing of forests in the

Silver mining required wood for ladders, pit props and firewood. By the early 1540s,
deforestation caused by the boom in silver mining was becoming a major problem. Not only in
the area around Taxco but in all silver-producing areas to the north in Chihuahua, Sonora and

Most of the silver mines in Mexico were in an area called New Spain’s mining belt. The area ran
along the edge of the western and eastern Sierra Madre on a trail called El Camino Real (the
Royal Highway).

El Camino Royal linked Mexico City to Santa Fe, New Mexico. By the late 1700s, this area
accounted for approximately 450 different mining towns that included San Luis Potosi,
Guanajuato and Zacatecas.

Other smaller mining towns spread across the semiarid plains and mountains of northern and
central Mexico. Much of the New Spanish mining was in an area with similar climatic,
topographical and environmental characteristics. Almost all of the mines were found in the hill
country, mountain slopes and valleys.

The Mining Centers of Mexico

The leading silver mining town in Mexico is located in Fresnillo, Zacatecas. Fresnillo is located
in north-central Mexico, 568 km (353 miles) northwest of Mexico City. The area has been a
leading silver-producing town since the mid-1500s and one of the world’s oldest continuous

Today, Fresnillo is a mining company that was founded in 2008. They are Mexico’s single
largest producer of silver and listed on the over-the-county stock market in the United States
and on the London Stock Exchange. Last year, 53.1 million ounces of silver were produced at

Other silver producing centers in Mexico include:
● Mazapil, Zacatecas
● Santa Bárbara, Chihuahua
● San Dimas, Durango
● Guanaceví, Durango
● Nacozari de García, Sonora

Historic Silver Mining Towns

Throughout Mexico, you can find historical silver mining towns that despite having run out of
silver to mine, are still interesting places to visit.

Taxco, Guerrero was one of the first silver mining areas that later became famous for its jewelry
and silver-making industry.

An American, William Spratling, started a silver industry in Taxco in 1931 when there were still
small silver mines operating. He opened a workshop where he trained local craftsmen to
produce his pre-colonial decorative designs.

Today, there are various silver workshops, including some started by former apprentices of
William Spratling. Taxco is known as Mexico’s premier showcase for high-quality silverwork and
is a tourist destination.

Sombrerete, Zacatecas is another former silver mining town located between Durango and
Zacatecas. Explorers in the 1500s accidentally discovered silver when they found molten silver
congealing in their campfires.

Silver mining transformed Sombrerete into a wealthy mining town with an abundance of
beautiful buildings. When the silver ore began to run out, the town fell into decline. Thankfully,
many of these fine buildings survive today to tell the tale of the silver mining days.

Near Sombrerete stands the Sierra de Los Organos National Park or the Valley of the Giants, a
spectacular area of woodlands, meadows, and cacti overlooked by rocky cliffs. The park is well-
known for several John Wayne movies that were filmed there, including The Train
Robbers and The War Wagon. (John Wayne even donated tables and barbecues so that others
could sit and enjoy the area!)

Other silver mining towns in Mexico that have become interesting historical sights include:
● Angangueo, Michoacán
● Mapimí, Durango
● Pinos, Zacatecas
● San Sebastián del Oeste, Jalisco

Mexico has a fascinating history of silver mining that dates back centuries. There is still plenty of
silver yet to be mined in Mexico, with most of the silver coming from Fresnillo.

Throughout the country, you can find an array of interesting and beautiful towns with a
significant silver mining history.

Santa Prisca Silver is a jewelry manufacturer and a jewelry sourcing company based in Taxco. If you’re interested in working on a new project with us, feel free to reach out with the contact form below. Someone will get back to you the same day, and we’ll discuss how to move forward!