NEW YORK – Junior miners, struggling to fund exploration as institutions seek lower risk and better returns from larger rivals and newer industries, sought to sell potential investors on projects on Thursday, with mixed success.
The proliferation of index funds, sluggish gold price growth and a shift into cannabis and cryptocurrencies by risk investors has left junior miners short of funding.
While the mining industry has seen a tentative revival in interest, much of that capital has flowed to larger producers.
"There has never been greater divergence between big and small companies in the mining sector. Big companies are healthy. ... They have a lot of (earnings)," Peter Grosskopf, CEO of asset manager Sprott, said at the Mines and Money Conference. "The juniors are nowhere near that."
Ian Berzins, CEO of Braveheart Resources, said the company is close to completing development on its British Columbia gold project, thanks to flow-through funding, but needs capital for future exploration.
Flow-through funding allows companies to pass on to investors tax deductions related to exploration or development.
"We've relied on families or insiders," Berzins said in an interview on the sidelines of the conference. "Our other options are, we could sell a royalty on some or all of the property, or enter into a streaming agreement ... but once you've given up a royalty, it's gone forever."
Bought deal financing for junior explorers, in which investment banks commit to buy entire offerings from issuers, slumped 40% in 2018 from 2017, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada and deals researcher Oreninc said in a March report.
The MVIS Global Junior Gold Miners index has lost 14% in the past year, compared with the S&P/TSX Global Gold index's 5% drop.
Anglo-Australian Resources chairman John Jones, who presented the company's Feysville Gold project near Kalgoorlie in Australia, said growing battery minerals demand has lifted explorers with such projects at the expense of others.
"It's inevitable that (struggling companies will) have to give up ... quite a bit of equity in projects to reduce their exposure by getting a cashed-up partner," Jones said. "Some of them are private, high-wealth individuals, or private equity."