Canadian Manufacturing

Electric car boom helping fuel resurgence of Canada’s junior mining industry

Most of Canada's junior mining companies remain aspiring gold producers, but demand for battery components such as lithium and cobalt is driving miners to pursue once-overlooked deposits


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The improved market comes after years of struggles in the junior sector after valuations plummeted with the price of gold starting in 2011

CALGARY—There are signs of a “delicate recovery” in Canada’s junior mining industry with a significant jump in money raised, a report by PwC Canada said Nov. 6.

The top 100 mining companies on the TSX Venture Exchange raised $2.04 billion in equity in the year ending June 30, up from the $746 million a year earlier, said Liam Fitzgerald, lead of PwC’s mining and metals division.

“The fundamentals are staring to fall in. It’s not definitive, but they’re starting to fall into place,” Fitzgerald said.

“Money’s coming in. It is flowing towards the bigger end of the top 100, but it’s still flowing in at a much more remarkable pace compared to year over year.”

The bump comes after years of struggles in the junior sector after valuations plummeted with the price of gold starting in 2011.

In aggregate, the stock market value of the top 100 junior mining companies was up seven per cent to $12.2 billion to a level not seen since 2010, but the group underperformed the TSX Venture Exchange as a whole.

Fitzgerald said the index is still dominated by aspiring gold miners, so any significant change in valuations would depend on gold moving out of the range it’s been trading in recent years, or miners shifting focus to other metals.

He said that shift could happen as companies look to the metals required for batteries and electric cars, with lithium and cobalt already seeing significant attention.

“What I’m fascinated to see is with this electronic vehicle phenomenon, will some of these Venture Exchange companies move a little bit away from the traditional gold market, and into something like a manganese or a bit more copper, zinc, lithium, cobalt.”

Spending on exploration, development and mergers and acquisition was also up, with cash outflows coming in at $1.15 billion, up from $268 million a year before, the report said.

The spending still left miners on the venture exchange with significant cash stores, said Fitzgerald, as they concentrate on clear growth strategies rather than the more speculative drilling activity during boom years.

“They’re not burning through the cash at the same velocity they did as years gone by.”

Money raised through debt rose more modestly, up 20 per cent to $487 million, while five initial public offerings by mining companies on the TSX Venture Exchange raised a total of $40 million compared with no IPOs by miners on the junior market in the same period a year earlier.


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