The metals that we mine - silver, gold, lead and zinc - are vital commodities in our daily lives. From cell phones to renewable energy and medical equipment, these precious and base metals form the building blocks of our society.
Demand for most metals continues to climb as the world's population rises and standards of living improve in developing countries. We are proud to contribute to this growing global demand by producing metals responsibly and by making a lasting contribution to local communities where we operate.
Our Contribution to Society
Hover your mouse over the various hot spots in the illustration to reveal some of the surprising uses of the metal we mine.
Silver: The indispensable element
Silver has countless applications, however, 95% of the demand for silver is from three areas: industry, investment and silver jewelry and décor. In recent years, fabrication demand has greatly outpaced mine production forcing market participants to use existing stocks to meet demand. As these available sources continue to decline, silver's fundamental value continues to strengthen.
- Solar energy. 90% of all photovoltaic cells rely on silver paste. These cells turn the sun's rays into solar energy, one of our most valuable sources of renewable energy.
- Medicine. The medical community has long valued silver for its healing and anti-disease properties. Today, it is added to bandages and wound-dressings, catheters and other medical instruments and is a key part of the technology behind X-rays.
- Cars. Over 36 million ounces of silver are used annually in automobiles. Silver-coated electrical contacts help start the engine, open power windows, adjust power seats and close a power trunk.
Gold: The iconic metal
Gold has been used for jewelry, decorative and monetary purposes for thousands of years. And it has long been considered a store value.
Today, gold is also increasingly important in the development of new technologies.
- Electronics. Gold is used in components for mobile phones, computer systems and a variety of high-performance electronic systems. Only silver and copper are better conductors of electricity.
- Medicine. Gold is highly resistant to bacteria and can be used for medical implants where there is a high risk of infection, such as in the inner ear.
- Diagnostics. Researchers have used gold nanoparticles in laboratory tests to detect disease, which could lead to tests more than three-million times more sensitive than currently available.
Zinc: Critical for life on earth
Zinc is integral to our daily lives. From transportation and medicine, to energy conservation, pollution control, electronics and space exploration, about 12 million tons of zinc is produced annually to meet this demand. About 75% of the zinc consumed worldwide originates from mined ores and 25% from recycled or secondary zinc.
- Galvanizing. More than half is used for galvanizing to protect steel from corrosion.
- Die-casting. Approximately 14% goes into the production of zinc-based alloys, mainly to supply the die-casting industry, and 10% to produce brass and bronze.
- Housing. Zinc is used for applications such as roofing, gutters and down-pipes.
Lead: A store of energy
Lead is mined on all continents except Antarctica and is one of the most important metals to industrialized economies. Global demand for lead has more than doubled since the early 1990s. Today, lead has the highest recycling and reuse rates compared to other major metals.
- Batteries. 80% of lead usage is in the production of batteries, of which more than 95% are recycled in developed countries. Lead batteries are allowing significant vehicle CO2 savings through "start-stop" technology and hybrid electric vehicles.
- Protection. Lead provides protection from radiation for people working in hospitals, dental surgeries, laboratories and nuclear installations. It is also vital for protecting underwater transmission cables.