Small mining companies in North America are struggling to attract funding, despite growing demand for lithium and cobalt for electric vehicles and batteries.
TORONTO—Investors are pouring money into car companies, battery makers and clean-tech startups that are poised to benefit from the global economy’s shift to electric power. But many small mining companies that supply the raw materials haven’t been invited to the party.
Uncertainty over the metals’ quality, the short- and long-term outlook for prices and the ability of North American miners to compete with their Chinese counterparts is making investors wary.
Bryce Crocker, the chief executive officer of Jervois Mining Ltd., is touting a cobalt project in Idaho. The Australian executive needs $100 million to open a mine on central Idaho’s Gant Mountain that the company says could eventually produce more than 15% of the cobalt consumed annually in the U.S. The blue-gray mineral is critical to making the batteries that power electric vehicles, laptops and smartphones as well as the alloys used to make jet-fighter engines.
After more than a year of fundraising, he is still seeking contributions from commercial banks, private-equity firms and hedge funds.
“We need the support of the capital markets,” he said. “But this is not a commodity that lenders have traditionally loaned against.”