Cannington Mine – the largest silver mine in the world

The Cannington mine is located in the Australian state of Queensland and is currently considered the world’s largest silver mine. Similar to gold mines, most silver mines also extract many other metals. At the Cannington Mine, this is mainly lead in addition to zinc.

The mine is 100 percent owned by the Australian mining company South32 and, like almost all silver mines, is operated by underground mining.

Geography and history

The Cannington Mine is located in northwest Queensland, Australia. The Cannington area is about 200 kilometers from the largest city in Queensland Mount Isa. The mine site is located on a large plain intersected only by a few low mesas.

The silver mine was discovered in 1990 by the Australian mining company BHP Billiton and was first put into operation in 1997. With a capacity of around 1.5 million tons of ore per year, the mine reached full production in 1999. Since then, production capacity has been continuously expanded to more than 3 million tons of ore per year.

Owned by South 32

In the meantime, the Cannington Mine is 100 percent owned by South32. The Australian mining company, headquartered in Perth, was formed through a spin-off from mining giant BHP Billiton in 2015, taking over large stakes in manganese, aluminum and nickel production from the original group. The Cannington silver mine was also one of the projects acquired.

South32 operates globally and produces aluminum, nickel, manganese and silver as well as lead, bauxite, alumina and metallurgical coal at projects in Australia, South America and South Africa.

World’s largest silver mine

Currently, the Cannington Mine is considered the largest silver mine in the world, ahead of the Rudna Mine of Polish mining group KGHM Polska and Fresnillo plc’s Zacatecas Mine in Mexico.

Underground mining at Cannington produces silver, lead and zinc. The metals are recovered after crushing the ore by sequential floatation and various leaching processes.

In order to improve the recovery rate, BHP Billiton started to expand the Cannington Mine in 2003 and began to develop the previously untouched ore body in the northern mine area.

South32 has continued with the expansion project so that the mine now produces around 3 million tons of ore per year. The life of the Australian mine was forecast to be 25 years.

About 600 South32 employees and about 400 other contractors are now employed at the mine.

The metals produced in the mine are stored right on site in appropriate storage sheds until further transport for export to world markets.




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