PDAC-Mineral explorers brace for shakeout as capital vanishes

Wed Mar 6, 2013 6:48pm EST
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* Hundreds of Canadian-listed juniors feel financial squeeze

* Capital raised by sector plunged in first two months of year

* Investor interest in mining has waned as boom years fade

By Euan Rocha

TORONTO, March 6 (Reuters) - A purge of exploration-stage mining companies seems inevitable over the next 18 months as cash shortages threaten hundreds with extinction, de-listing or bankruptcy, industry insiders say.

With the mining sector enjoying an extended bull run in recent years, the ranks of explorers listed on Canada's TSX Venture Exchange - the world's biggest market for start-ups in the sector - has ballooned to over 1,300, accounting for almost 60 percent of all companies listed on the exchange.

Hundreds of these companies are now struggling, caught in a tightening squeeze for money, according to executives at this week's Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada mining convention in Toronto - the industry's largest annual meeting.

"There will be a clean-out. It has to occur," said David Strang, chief executive of Lumina Copper Corp. "It's no different than the Internet boom of the late 1990s where there was cheap venture capital money available - everybody built all of those companies and very few survived."

Junior mining companies flock to PDAC each year to drum up cash to sustain their operations, or better yet, entice a larger player to acquire them. But this year's pickings are slim for an expanded group of explorers that has grown desperate.   Continued...