Canadian mining under fire at home and abroad
Canada's mining sector failed to book a single IPO in the first quarter of 2013, financing for junior miners continues to dry up, and Canadian miners abroad are facing increasing local opposition.
These are tough times for Canadian mining.
Domestically, senior executives of Canadian juniors complain that the market is the worst that it has ever been. After one of the greatest resource sector bull markets in history, mining project valuations have now, in the eyes of some, become irrational.
"A bull market will always go higher, and a bear market will fall farther than you expect it will,” cautioned Frank Giustra in a recent article for ceo.ca.
The gloom was felt at Toronto's PDAC international mining convention last month as the reality that many juniors will eventually go bust continues to set in.
"We have a crisis in the small- and mid-sized companies that are exploring. And there is a lot of selling that's happening," says MaryAnn Mihychuk, PDAC board member.
"Low cash balances, coupled with broader pressures around regulatory risks and rising operating costs, have put some junior miners at a disadvantage in the capital markets and undoubtedly."
Mihychuk says there are about 630 companies, which makes up about half of the 1,300 listed companies in Canada, that have less than $200,000 in working capital.
"For some junior miners (25%) around the world, the liquidity crunch is serious enough that they need to raise cash within three months or less, with that number rising to 31% in Canada."
Canada is home to a majority of junior exploration mining companies worldwide. As a result, Canada-based miners are facing domestic opposition to their projects in all parts of the globe, including Greece, Colombia, Nicaragua, Peru, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Israel.
The protests are fueled primarily by environmental concerns as local communities fear degradation of local ecosystems.
This is certainly the case on the Halkidiki penninsula of Greece, where Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold's proposed Skouries project is up against fierce opposition from local groups. In addition to a string of protests, on February 17th, a group of masked men broke into the mine site and set machinery on fire.
Maria Kadoglou, one of the leaders of Halkidiki protest movement, says that the nature, scale and location of the Skouries project account for local opposition.
Skouries is an open pit/underground gold-copper mine on top of a mountain that holds the largest water reserves in the region and has a very important ancient forest. Eldorado has mineral concessions to an area of 317 km2 and they are already aggressively exploring the next targets.
This part of Halkidiki has always had mining (lead-zinc) but it was always a small scale underground operation. Most people in the area do not object the continuation of the old mine.
On March 18th, tens of thousands of Colombians took to the streets to protest the exploration efforts of Canadian Eco Oro in Bucaramanga.
Citizens of Bucaramanga are concerned that future gold mining projects in high-altitude, environmentally-sensitive areas will damage the city's water supply.
Ramsey Hart of Ottawa-based Mining Watch, who spoke to the CBC earlier today, says lack of accountability is partly to blame for the negative pressure on Canadian miners internationally.
Unlike the U.S. Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign citizens to bring American companies to U.S. courts for abuses committed in a foreign country, there are no mechanisms to hold Canadian companies overseas accountable for their social and environmental policies.
Video: The most recent protest of Eldorado's Skouries project in northern Greece, March 25, 2013.
Sources: ceo.ca; CBC; Vancouver Sun; Financial Post