Skip to main content

Editorial comment

Despite their importance in the green technology transition, junior miners and explorers can struggle to capture the attention of modern-day investor audiences like other sectors have, notably technology.

Register for free »
Get started now for absolutely FREE, no credit card required.

In this generation alone, technology start-ups like Google (Alphabet), Amazon, Tesla, and Facebook (Meta) have become massive successes. Many have generated revenues and market capitalisations that dwarf some 20th century giants of the industrial age. Part of this excitement is attributable to high-profile tech entrepreneurs like Bezos, Musk, and Zuckerberg. They are celebrated for their accomplishments and hailed as innovators.

In contrast, junior mining executives have rarely garnered such enthusiasm. Both Robert Friedland and Rob McEwen have enviable track records in building numerous successful exploration and production ventures from scratch. Yet, they are not household names. If entrepreneurs built our industry, why shouldn’t today’s junior mining executives be viewed the same way?

Unfortunately, most retail investors are unaware of this heritage or the many disciplines that modern explorers must master to be successful. Assessing project geology, sourcing capital and financial reporting, regulatory compliance, ESG/corporate responsibility, indigenous relations, and mitigating potential jurisdiction and political risks are just some of our skill sets. Many junior mining executives travel worldwide to investigate resource opportunities, invest their time and money into grooming projects, and demonstrate long-term commitment to their ventures by serving as primary shareholders. If this is not entrepreneurial, then what is?

Then there are perceptions within our industry. Junior miners often act as the exploration arm for industry majors, saving them the time and costs involved in pinpointing economic deposits. Instead of lauding explorers as start-ups or incubators contributing to their successes, many within the industry view us as lesser miners or a tolerated necessity. For many, discussions revolve around juniors not being economically viable and how most should wind down operations or consolidate.

Yet good juniors have continued to persevere, raise funds, and drill. We have re-doubled efforts to remain nimble, decisive, cost-effective, and innovative to achieve results and create shareholder value. If the mining industry does not widely recognise the importance of explorers and our entrepreneurial spirit, who will?

Some progress has been made. I applaud recent initiatives like BHP Xplor’s accelerator programme to help early-stage explorers advance their technical, business, and operations readiness towards strengthening their respective investment cases. It is an important step, but more has to be done.

To present our worth, we need to change the industry mindset about juniors and develop strategies to reach a larger investor audience. Showcasing us as entrepreneurs addresses both.

In my view, celebrating junior miners as entrepreneurial ventures will help demonstrate the value of juniors inside and outside the industry; generate increased interest and excitement with the larger investing community; increase visibility and engagement with non-traditional audiences for resource sector investment (including technology, green transition, Millennials, and Gen. Z); attract the public mindshare needed to dispel misconceptions about modern mining operations; and communicate mined metals’ role in consumer technology, electric vehicles, and the transition from fossil fuels.

With that said, junior mining executives must do more to garner attention about our work and value. We need to follow the playbooks of Friedland and McEwen, alongside those of tech and bio start-up executives, to capture the public’s imagination. In parallel, we must actively communicate with more investor audiences and position ourselves as doers, discoverers, and game changers. We need to connect the dots between exploration and consumer technology and how the metals we seek are important in bettering the human condition.

Gone are the days of the ‘junior mining investor’ – the bulk of investors are generalists now, deploying capital in sectors that are moving. We need to focus on attracting them en masse, as opposed to simply marketing to the same group time and time again. Times have changed, as must we. By showcasing junior mining’s entrepreneurial character, we will connect more with the broader investment community.