Antimicrobial Coatings a Blessing for Silver Producers

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 11:04

With a size range as small as just 0.2 microns, bacteria are everywhere, from cellphones to toilet seats. That may be off-putting for most people but for miners it could prove an important source of demand, with silver the big winner. “Silver is likely to be a major beneficiary of growth in the antimicrobial market,” said Jason Russ, a value and growth investor expert, in an article for Seeking Alpha. “In addition to glass surfaces, the use of nanoparticles of the metal is an excellent method for impregnating other surfaces such as wound dressings, cotton fibers, cutting boards, food packaging, and even yoga mats.”
Allan Smith, Vice President of Product Marketing for Steelcase, says the new trend of open plan and shared office space is further increasing the need for bacteria-resistance on a larger scale. “As more people move through shared work spaces, there is an increased need for antimicrobial surfaces,” says Smith in a company press release. Forbes says more than 11,000 shared working spaces exist in the US, with projections of more than 26,000 spaces hosting 3.8 million people by 2020.
An expected boom in demand for silver ions in antibacterial products is good news for silver producers, especially considering the optimism surrounding silver prices. According to the World Silver Survey 2018 produced by The Silver Institute, the industry reported a physical deficit ratio between supply and demand of 1:26 as the global mine production of silver reached a mere 852 million ounces in comparison to the global physical demand of 1.017 billion ounces in 2017. This creates a favorable scenario for silver operators around the world, and even more so for Mexico as the largest producer of the metal.
Bradford Cooke, CEO of Endeavour Silver, says the recent downturn and lack of exploration projects could be a favorable scenario for silver operators, provided they have a large enough pipeline. “Falling new mine supply of silver due to few new mines being built during the recent five-year bear market of low metal prices should help boost higher metal prices for the next few years,” he says.
It seems that every day new and innovative uses are found for silver, from solar panels to automotive components. According to the World Silver Survey, industrial uses accounted for 60 percent of silver use in 2017. Use of trace amounts of silver, such as the quantities used in microbial glass, may not seem like a lot, but the organization says this can quickly add up. “Although silver is used in small quantities in some applications, the diversity is large, and the continued rising volumes of applications are expected to again have a positive impact on silver consumption from industrial products this year,” says the report.
Ultimately, experts in metals price analysis do not seem overly concerned about the drop in demand, yet there is a great deal of buzz around the new, innovative ways to use silver and the ways this could impact its price in the coming years. Keith Neumeyer, CEO of operator First Majestic Silver, has been one of the boldest by stating that the price of silver could reach US$130/oz in an interview with Palisade Research. While his prediction is a far cry from the average price of US$17/oz the metal recorded in 2017, the increase in demand from new applications such as those related to anti-bacterial surfaces shows there is room for growth.
It may be up to more innovative uses of the metal to sway the balance in the direction in which operators need it to move. “While silver has been used for ages as an antimicrobial material, soon the new glass will almost certainly account for silver’s greatest market penetration of an antimicrobial surface,” says Russ. “Many people now consider silver’s antimicrobial properties to be the next big thing to boost demand for the metal.”