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Colonial Mexico’s economy experienced a long phase of growth during the eighteenth century. Around 1800, silver exports and fiscal surplus remittances from the colony rose to unprecedented levels. We study the contribution of the Spanish imperial state’s policy to the expansion of silver production and the leading role of mining in economic growth and its fiscal implications. We find evidence to support a more favourable view of both the mining sector and the imperial state than that commonly presented in the literature. The interruption of colonial ‘mining-led growth’ helps to explain the ‘lost decades’ for the economic development of Mexico after independence.