Capital markets are showing renewed interest in the mining sector after several tough years, according to an overview by two partners at the law firm Torys LLP.
Michael Amm and Michael Pickersgill say in a new report that there are "gold shoots" at last for mining-sector financing following the rebound of precious metals prices during the first half of 2016.
The biggest beneficiaries to date have been precious metals royalty and streaming companies. These businesses advance money to gold and silver miners in exchange for rights to "streams" of metal that will be produced in the future.
So far this year, Franco-Nevada Corp., Silver Wheaton Corp. and Osisko Gold Royalties Ltd. have raised more than $1.6-billion (U.S.) of equity capital for their streaming businesses.
"This is the streamers' heyday," Mr. Amm said. "When you've got low commodity prices, when you've got other forms of financing drying up for miners … streamers have great opportunities."
In exchange for providing cash-strapped miners with badly needed funds, streamers are typically able to negotiate rights to buy future streams of precious metals at extremely attractive prices, as well as getting a slice of new discoveries.
Mr. Amm noted that investors like streamers because they provide cash flow and exploration upside without being subject to many of the risks that go hand in hand with actually running a mine, such as cost escalation and production problems.
However, it's not just streamers that are benefiting from investors' renewed interest in precious metals. Kinross Gold Corp., a major gold producer, tapped investors for a $288-million equity offering this year, while smaller gold miners such as Pretium Resources Inc. and Red Eagle Mining Corp. also raised cash in recent months.
To be sure, the sudden enthusiasm for miners may fade if gold prices slump again, but the Torys partners noted that gold producers have made major progress in reducing their all-in costs of mining the metal, increasing their ability to produce earnings at whatever price happens to prevail.
As a result, "there is a slow opening up of capital markets to mining as we see commodity prices continue to stabilize and consolidate," Mr. Pickersgill said.
Investors' enthusiasm has yet to reach the base metal area, where prices for copper and several other industrial commodities remain depressed.
"There are solutions happening in that area but things still have a ways to run before bankers are going to start putting term sheets in front of the base metal miners," Mr. Pickersgill said.