Silver is one of the first metal elements which were found, exploited and used by human beings.
During the ancient times about 5000-6000 years ago, human race had already recognized natural silver and collected it.
Before the 16th century, the mining and smelting center of silver in the world was in the Mediterranean and Asian regions, and the biggest silver mines were in Greece, Spain, Germany and China, at that time the annual yield of silver was less than 200 tons.
After the middle ages, American and Oceania were successively developed by the people, since then the center of the world’s silver mining gradually moved to Peru, Mexico, Bolivia and further to the US, Chile, Canada and Australia, up till now these countries are still the main countries that produce silver in the world.
China is one of the first countries that discovered and exploited silver mine in the world, according to research of silver ornaments such as ear rings, nose rings etc. unearthed in the Huoshaogou ruins in Yumen, Gansu Province, early in the late Neolithic Age, the ancient Chinese folks had known silver mine, and collected and extracted silver to process into ornaments.
During the Spring and Autumn Period, there were 10 known “silver hills” in China. Funerary objects such as silver neck ring, silver instruments and silver needle etc. have been found in the graves from the Warring States period to the Han Dynasty, this fully proves that during the time from the Warring Times period to the Han Dynasty, not only mining and smelting of silver ore, but also the technology of producing silver instruments have reached a very high standard.
During Tang Dynasty, according to the recordation, there were in total 35 places “with silver” around China, and the silver mining was quite flourishing among the people. During the Yuanhe years of Tang Dynasty (806-820 AD), the annual yield of silver reached over 5 tons. During Song Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty, China’s ancient silver industry continued to develop, during the Yuanfeng years, silver mines were distributed in 68 states (capital, prefecture and military), and the total yield of silver during the first year of the Yuanfeng years reached 10.5 tons.
Silver was a major currency in the Yuan Dynasty, in the 31st year of Zhiyuan (1294 AD), the total silver stored in various banks around China except the capital was around 50 tons. But during the Ming and Qing Dynasties and the Republic of China era, the development of silver mining once came to a stop, and the annual yield of silver only fluctuated between 2 and 6 tons.
The geologic work of silver mine in China began at the beginning of this century when the geologic research institute was established, up till 1949, there were only more than 10 lead and silver mining areas with high contents of silver (such as Shuikou Mountain, Chaihe River, Lancing etc.) that had performed estimation of silver reserves in the shallow part.
After the establishment of the New China, during the fifties, while performing large-scale exploration of nonferrous metal deposit, comprehensive assessment was also performed for the adjacent silver mines.
In the late sixties, the geologic survey and scientific research of independent silver mines were gradually strengthened, by the end of the seventies there were 7 large and medium sized silver producing areas (Shilibao in Shandong, Yinkengshan in Zhejiang, Yindonggou in Hubei, Yindong in Shanxi, Poshan in Henan, Pangxi Cave in Guangdong, Jinshan in Guangxi) that had been turned into industrial assessment through exploration.
During the last 40 years, silver industry has been rapidly developed in China, industrial silver deposit has been found in 26 provinces, cities and regions around China, there were over 200 mines and smelting enterprises that have been established by now to produce and recover silver, and the yield of silver was also increased from 4.6 tons in 1949 to currently exceeding 1,000 tons each year.