As downturn bites, Australia’s miners could turn to crowdfunding – by James Regan (Reuters U.S. – November 2, 2015)

SYDNEY – Nov 2 A pair of former miners are hoping to launch a crowdfunding website in Australia for small mining companies struggling to raise capital via traditional outlets as lenders turn their back on the sector.

Crowdfunding in Australia to raise equity is prohibited under the nation’s Corporations Act. The founders of Mineral Intelligence Pty, however, are counting on this to change by the end of the year under pro-business initiatives being considered by lawmakers.

U.S. securities regulators approved new crowdfunding rules on Friday, allowing start-up companies to raise money for the first time from mom-and-pop investors over the internet.

Over the past three years, tens of thousands of jobs have gone in Australian mining, once the nation’s economic engine, while some executives have taken pay cuts or forsaken bonuses to support the bottom line in the absence of fresh capital.

Shared office space among companies has become commonplace to cut down on rents and perks such as gourmet foods and language lessons at mining camps have been eliminated.

“The lack of equity finance continues to be the most significant business constraint for mineral exploration and mining companies,” said Simon Bennison, chief executive of the Association of Mining and Exploration companies, representing many of Australia’s smaller miners.

Crowdfunding could pave the way for prospectors to raise cash to pay for exploration work at the earliest and riskiest stages of development and provide investors with early opportunities.

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