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Streetwise Romarco’s failed financing a ‘wake-up call’ to miners

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Hoping to capitalize on a recent bounce in its stock price, junior gold miner Romarco Minerals Inc. tried to tap the market for new funds this week.

But in the face of a new bout of global uncertainty and underlying troubles for miners of all sizes, the company was forced to pull the overnight marketed deal after its own shareholders refused to pony up new cash.

The episode demonstrates just how tough it is for miners today – particularly the smaller ones – who raise money in order to develop their projects. Even Romarco, which is a relatively well-known name and boasts a market value of roughly $500-million, couldn't find the cash it wanted.

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"When Romarco goes out and is unable to complete a financing, it's a wake-up call to the market," said chief executive officer Diane Garrett. "This market is very difficult to raise money in, and that became very clear to us … through our deal"

Not only is the company sizeable, its stock price is roughly where it was a year ago – something most miners can't say. In fact, the stock has actually climbed about 30 per cent in three months, something Ms. Garrett admits she was trying to capitalize on.

If something doesn't give soon, there are worries that many junior miners could vanish. The same fear is also spreading to the energy patch, where the pace of equity financings in Canada is also abysmal. During the annual PDAC mining conference run by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada in Toronto in early March, there were lots of whispers of doom and gloom – though the miners still partied hard.

In Romarco's case, Ms. Garrett said her company will get by just fine, noting that the funds she was hoping for were more or less "top-up" cash that would serve as a cushion in the event of any development problems.

"Our shareholders are very supportive … [but] said you know what, you don't need the money right now," Ms. Garrett explained.

(Tim Kiladze is a Globe and Mail Reporter.)

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