[time-nuts] RoHS Solder

SAIDJACK at aol.com SAIDJACK at aol.com
Sat Sep 26 08:52:18 UTC 2009

Hi James,
In a message dated 9/24/2009 17:34:45 Pacific Daylight Time,  
james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov writes:

I  find that hard to believe.. the use of silver in photography is rapidly  
dropping.. I think it used to be about a third of the total market, and now 
 it's something like 10%. 

True, but we are still using up a huge amount of above-ground silver  every 
year since the early 80's. For some good details, and info take a look at:  
silver-investor.com. David makes a good point that silver is now being used 
to  store photos in CD's, and in hard disks etc, so the photography demand 
is being  shifted away from paper/film usage to electronic storage (at least 
to some  extent).

A  bit of googling shows that there are something like 3300 million ounces 
not  yet mined, but found. 

A chart shows existing mines producing around  200 million oz/yr, so that's 
15-16 years production.. not too far into the  future, I admit.
Consider the certain death of fiat currency in the next 20 years, and the  
world's economies going back to silver/gold as sound money as another large  
consumer of silver in the future years. Silver used to be money in the US 
until  ~1963, same in China etc. There are a lot of countries were silver 
still means  money (d'argent)...

The same  chart showed a demand of about 800 million oz/yr (there's 
significant  recycling of silver).

There really isn't that much of recycling of silver according to David  
Morgan due to the small amounts used in products, and it's currently very cheap 
 price. Most of the excess apparently comes from depleting above ground 
stock  piles.

But, anyway, of that 200 million oz, how much is going into lead-free  
solder.  EPA says about 180 million pounds/yr of tin-lead solder. I think  the 
usual formulations are 2% silver, so 3.6 million pounds/yr of silver (14.6  
troy oz/lb, so 53 million oz/yr... a significant chunk, but only about 6-7% 
of  the total world usage.. )

How about the other consumers of silver? I.e. China is pushing their  
citizens on national TV right now to go and buy gold and silver bullion.  Imaging 
only every say 4th Chinese buying an ounce of silver per year. 350  Million 
ounces gone like that..

And those un mined reserves are based on whatever silver prices are  now.. 
($15-17/oz, I think)  If the demand increased significantly, it might  spur 
exploration OR, more likely, the usage of lower grade ores. 
Most silver is produced as a by-product of Copper and other metals as far  
as I know. Maybe at $100 per ounce it will be mined for its own intrinsic  
Unfortunately, silver is a mineral that concentrates (unlike, say, iron),  
so it's not like dropping the grade by a factor of 2 leads to an increased  
abundance of a similar factor.  However, even if the silver price doubles,  
it's a small part of the cost of a piece of electronics... sure, silicon is 
made  from sand which is pretty common, but it's very expensive processing 
that sand  to make functional dice and to put them in packages.

That may be true, but what if the world runs out of available  above-ground 
silver? What will we use in solder at that point? Could  there be a market 
In my opinion lead works better, is cheaper, and has been used for 80+  
years for a very good reason. One illegally dumped car battery has probably  
enough lead for soldering 1000 cell phones...

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