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Two mining exploration camps are pictured in the proposed Ring of Fire development area, approximately 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, Ontario in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters March 28, 2013.Handout/Reuters

It's a bleak world for junior mining companies hoping to persuade investors to help them develop their projects.

So far this year, 55 new mining companies have had success tapping the public markets via the TSX Venture Exchange. And that's with help from a special program at the junior exchange designed to help smaller companies access public funds.

That figure is down nearly 50 per cent from last year, however, when 104 junior miners and explorers either went public or partnered with companies that had experience raising capital.

"The talk worldwide is, it's tough going for the junior companies," said Allan Goodman, a corporate and securities lawyer at Goodmans LLP, who was recently at a mining investment conference in London and described the mood there as "pretty depressing."

"For the activity levels you had before, where the juniors were raising money every day…. My sense, from what I see, is we're still a bit away from that."

The negative outlook in the mining sector is reflected in the numbers. Only six mining companies undertook initial public offerings on the TSX Venture Exchange, according to the latest report from TMX's market intelligence group.

The list includes Black Widow Resources Inc., a junior explorer that has a property in the Ring of Fire mineral deposit in Northern Ontario. Black Widow went public in April at 15 cents a share and is now trading at 12 cents a share.

By this time last year, 38 miners had made an initial public offering on the junior exchange. Smaller companies across all sectors have had difficulties raising funds, according to the market intelligence group report.

TSX Venture Exchange president John McCoach says this market cycle is "particularly challenging" for the junior mining companies. Compared to the 2007-09 market cycle – the height of the global financial crisis – the weakness appears more prolonged.

"In 2008, the market came off very dramatically, more so than it has in this cycle. But it also bounced back very quickly. I would say that was a more severe cycle, but it didn't last long enough for companies to really face [the prospect of] insolvency," said Mr. McCoach.

"We're definitely seeing some companies who are looking at their balance sheets and are concerned."

Editor's Note: We have clarified that six miners went public via an IPO so far this year, in the sixth paragraph, and that the 55 miners mentioned in the second paragraph refers to the TSX Venture Exchange alone.

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