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Many people have read little in the news about commodities investing since the 1997 collapse of Bre-X Minerals. But the junior mining industry has changed since then, and opportunities for investors abound. The Bre-X Minerals scandal was something of a wake-up call for those involved in the junior mining market. Thousands of investors all over the world lost billions of dollars in the aftermath of the event, and the entire junior mining space was painted in a negative light. Stories of past failures were brought to the surface, and every junior mining company, legitimate or not, was placed under the microscope. Many were unable to gain financing in the newly hostile environment and dropped off the map. That drought in financing lasted almost...

Many people have read little in the news about commodities investing since the 1997 collapse of Bre-X Minerals. But the junior mining industry has changed since then, and opportunities for investors abound.

The Bre-X Minerals scandal was something of a wake-up call for those involved in the junior mining market. Thousands of investors all over the world lost billions of dollars in the aftermath of the event, and the entire junior mining space was painted in a negative light. Stories of past failures were brought to the surface, and every junior mining company, legitimate or not, was placed under the microscope. Many were unable to gain financing in the newly hostile environment and dropped off the map.

That drought in financing lasted almost a decade. However, even as junior mining companies suffered and commodities prices remained low, the economies of developing countries continued to grow. Many of those countries — such as China, India, Brazil and Russia — have now emerged as economic powerhouses, and they are hungry for commodities like never before.

Another positive trend during that decade was the modernization of the junior mining space from a regulatory perspective. Among other things, the Canadian Securities Administration, a forum for the 13 securities regulators from the country’s provinces and territories, created guidelines for how companies must disclose scientific and technical information when exploring for minerals. Guidelines now exist for everything companies say about their findings, and companies must have what they say vetted by external, independent organizations.

Given those sweeping changes, many investors are wondering whether it’s now safe to invest in junior mining companies. And for many market watchers the answer is yes. The resource space is currently recovering from a bear market, and the overall consensus is that a lot of companies that are creating shareholder value are still priced well below what they are worth.

The chart below from Trading Economics gives some idea of where the market is at right now. It shows the performance of the S&P/TSX Composite Index (INDEXTSI:OSPTX) from January 1, 1990 to April 4, 2017 — many junior miners are listed on the index, and when it’s trending upward it’s generally a sign that commodities are doing well too.


Chart via tradingeconomics.com

That said, it’s important to remember that junior mining companies inherently come with a fair amount of risk attached. The success of any company depends whether it can find minerals in the ground and sell and ship them to buyers for more than it costs to produce them. Those things depend not only on the cost of setting up a mine and processing ore, but also on the market price for the commodity being sold and the mine’s proximity to the market it’s selling to. Like so many entrepreneurial situations, myriad things can go wrong.

But of course, there are also significant opportunities for profit, and many investors are looking for a piece of the pie. Some hire experts to manage their money, while others decide to go the extra mile and investigate in hopes of finding the next great company themselves. All investors, however, can rest assured that the junior mining industry has progressed to the point that the information companies release has been reviewed by experts in the field who stake their reputation on its accuracy.

This description was last updated on April 22, 2017.