As the incessant buzz surrounding gold continues to dominate the precious metals landscape, the world's primary silver producers have quietly turned in the kind of earnings power that I visualized last year while dubbing silver "An Asset More Precious than Gold."
Let's begin with the apparent favorite among Foolish readers: Hecla Mining
Thanks to a 77% increase to reserves at the 68-year-old Lucky Friday mine, Hecla raised total reserves to 140 million ounces net of 2009 production. Producing 10.9 million ounces of silver at a cash cost of $1.91 per ounce after byproduct credits, Hecla remains near the very top of the silver mining heap in terms of production costs thanks to prolific volumes of gold, lead, and zinc. Following a 26% increase in annual production for 2009, Hecla is targeting essentially flat production below 11 million ounces in 2010, with costs remaining contained beneath $2.25 per ounce.
Although no primary silver miner seems able to match the incredible cost structure of Silvercorp Metals
For reasons that continue to elude me, Pan American Silver
With an impressive track record of well-executed mine development, and a management team that took it on the chin with a voluntary wage reduction during the lean times of 2008, I think Pan American will continue to build shareholder value whether inside or outside of the silver spotlight. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.