For richer or poorer: some juniors claim their relationship with exchanges is strained, yet others disagree.
Bill Hennessy, president of Strike Minerals, which owns mining property near Wawa, has experienced the hardship these companies have faced first hand since the Bre-X fiasco and the years of falling gold prices.
He says a major challenge for juniors is dealing with the exchanges.
"The Toronto Stock Exchange has told us that if we do not have sufficient funds in our treasury and an active exploration program going on, we stand a good chance of being halted."
His company has had an inactive designation on the Toronto Stock Exchange for over a year.
"I cannot remember when to get a listing on these exchanges was so costly," says Hennessy. "I think the juniors have suffered beyond whatever I can recall since I have been playing the markets the last 50 years."
Hennessy claims it is difficult to maintain the listing.
"It is very costly and I think the exchanges see the juniors as too risky," says Hennessy.
The TSX placed Strike Minerals on the inactive listing in December of 2001.
"They must show us they meet Tier 2 maintenance requirements," says Steve Kee, director of media relations and publicity for the TSX.
Strike Minerals has until June 28 of this year to meet the requirements or face suspension. The TSX sent a letter to Strike on Jan. 17 indicating what steps still have to be completed to meet the requirements.
"They must finalize some of their submissions so we can see the financial impact," says Kee. "I think we are being very clear in what this company has to do to meet requirements and go from inactive to being an active company."
To be on the listing a company must meet public distribution, management, technical and financial standards.
Nonetheless, Hennessy believes the juniors are in need of support.
"Investors are not being encouraged by the exchanges to invest in juniors, which limits the capacity of juniors and therefore new mines are not being discovered that could be found.
"Most of our northern communities are reliant on the mineral industry and once that falters, these towns become retirement communities or depositories for Toronto's garbage," says Hennessy. "In my opinion, the North is being devastated in part by flagrant, unsupportive government policy and exchange policies towards the juniors."
Strike Minerals owns the Edwards mine property and Heunessy hopes to revive the property.
"In the past it was a;gold producer and there was not extensive testing done on other gold zones on the property," says Hennessy.
The property is advanced. There is a ramp down to the 980-foot level, there are accommodations for 40 people and a hydro station.
"All we need is about $250,000 to define about 50,000 tonnes of ore grading point three or four and we can reopen this property and start a commercial operation here," says Hennessy. "We cannot find that $250,000 because of the conditions in the junior sector right now."
If operational, Hennessy believes the property would inject a much-needed boost to the economy in the Wawa area.
"We would be hiring people and bring in a lot of construction and mining." Strike has apparently attempted to get flowthrough funding, but that too has failed.
"We were told by the flow-through fund handlers that it was almost, if not impossible to get a fund of that amount because big corporations want multi millions of dollars and the flow-through handlers have a nice avenue to distribute their funds to the majors."
Bill McGuinty, an official industry liaison geologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources, has been tracking flow-through funds.
"Usually the funds go out to about 40 to 50 smaller companies, and one to three big companies."
Awareness about super flow-through shares has been slow to develop.
"With the downturn in exploration at the end of 1996 there were a lot of brokerage firms that fired their mining analysts," says David Comba, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) director of issues management. "Very few guys are covering the mining beat anymore a lot of the institutions and a lot of people are just unaware the government gave us this tool."
Comba estimates the program helped raise between $180 million to $200 million for exploration in Canada in 2002.
Comba believes the climate is right for exploration activity in the North, and not just in gold.
"There is a big chunk of land that has diamond potential," says Comba. "There is significant interest in diamonds from Wawa to Larder Lake and north past Attawapiskat."
It is not all doom and gloom for the junior mining exploration industry in Canada.
"Overall, the junior mining sector has been in a slump since 1997," says Robin E. Dunbar, president of Mustang Minerals Corp. "Recently there has been a revival due to the increase in the price of gold and the industry as a whole has improved markedly since late 2002."
Dunbar adds he does say the treatment juniors receive from the exchanges is fair, but "overall though, there is more regulation and it can be relatively expensive for juniors to. function in today's stock market."