Almost three years into a recovery (with a few scares along the way), the banks have not returned with gusto and now private equity money and royalty/streaming deals are considered mainstream.
The next step for Africa-focused companies looking for cash on their own terms could be turning to local and regional investors, like Canadian and Australian developers have long done when working at home.
Mining Journal Intelligence's numbers from the recent Global Finance Report show the difficulty developers are having with raising cash from the market.
Only three of the US$10 million-plus secondary raisings done in the 12 months up the end of October last year had African exposure: Orezone Gold and West African Resources on the TSX-Venture exchange and Syrah Resources on the ASX.
Nikolas Toleris at London broker Mirabaud, said the market "currently isn't giving any value to new projects".
"People don't want to invest until they see the bottom," he told Mining Journal at the end of 2018.
But just because the usual funding sources aren't there doesn't mean miners and developers aren't putting the hat out somewhere.
Fishing for it
Shanta Gold CEO Eric Zurrin said he was looking in East Africa for at least part of the $19 million needed to build the Singida mine in Tanzania, despite this being pocket change for 18.9% shareholder Odey Asset Management.
The openpit gold project is good for 26,000 ounces per annum over six years and an IRR of 67%, and would push Shanta's production over 100,000ozpa.
"We're very aware that the typical investor in North America or London is probably not going to be our target audience at the moment," Zurrin said.
"What we've done is scoured the different pockets, which are on roads-less-travelled, so to speak."
That has included bringing a "very serious group" to the project in December.
"They're an African investor, a family office. We're at the term-sheet stage at the moment," Zurrin said.
Law firm Fieldfisher's recent alternative financing report shows Shanta is not an outlier.
"Outside the top tier, many miners are as cash-starved as ever - particularly at the pre-production end of the market - having missed out on the 2017 boom altogether," the firm said in its Alternative Financing report in November.
"Despite the convincing rebound in prices for many metals and improved financial discipline across the sector, traditional equity financing has not trickled down to junior companies with exploration and development stories."
Despite many companies' struggles, it's worth noting strong reserves in popular jurisdictions are still attracting investors.
Cardinal Resources is rolling along with development at Namdini in Ghana on a $25 million Sprott loan, Taurus handed West African Resources $200 million to build Sanbrado in Burkina Faso, Orca Gold has strong investors keen on its Sudan ounces and Cote d'Ivoire prospects, and even in the deflated lithium space Mali-focused Kodal Minerals is funded through an offtake partner, although is still a long way off production.
Like Shanta, Kefi Minerals has not managed a traditional debt/equity split or streaming deal to get its mine built.
The developer aims to soon start building the Tulu Kapi gold mine in Ethiopia.
On paper, the 2.1g/t open-pit project looks fine for investment: a 140,000-ounce-per-annum, seven-year mine at a cost of around $300 million, giving it an NPV (8% discount) of $57 million.
The company, like others, has had trouble financing, and gone the route of issuing $160 million in bonds (7% yield) for the plant and other processing equipment.
Contractor Ausdrill is also pitching in $60 million, to be repaid as it runs the mine and gets cash flow going.
The unproven jurisdiction has improved its image hugely in the past 12 months through new prime minister Abiy Ahmed's reforms and regional handshaking, and Kefi's local financing deal for up to $38 million with ANS Mining Share Company has shown there is cash available if you will offer equity.
The government has also put in $20 million in equity financing.
If all goes to plan, Kefi will end up with 53% of the mine.
Kefi managing director Harry Anagnostaras-Adams said the mine would eventually be funded by a mix of alternative markets.
"It would be fair to say Europeans, UK [investors], North Americans, are too far removed to feel particularly comfortable [in Ethiopia]," he told Mining Journal in August.
"There's emerging markets investors everywhere, but from a distance Ethiopia looked pretty unstable for a number of years. Therefore, our focus on the bond side ... has been on regional investors who are familiar with East Africa, and some with Ethiopia in particular."
"Our targets for the bond issue were Middle Eastern sovereign funds, Chinese sovereign funds and banks, and that has remained the case."
The arrival of cash from the bond issue process is waiting on each government approval being deliver in writing.
The top end of town
Shanta and Kefi are two examples are AIM companies digging around for asset-level finance in lieu of asking London institutions and institution-sized individuals.
According to the Global Finance Report, London is not the place to raise project cash on-market.
Bacanora Resources showed how things could go wrong when pulling a $100 million private placement last year, aimed at funding part of the Sonora lithium project in Mexico.
Across the pond, the TSX is not a whole lot more welcoming.
TSXV developer Giyani Metals has a manganese project in Botswana.
It is currently waiting on environmental permits to start processing stockpiles at three sites and generating some revenue.
It's not an expensive plan but the company's CEO and former banker Robin Birchall told Mining Journal going to the market for their cash was still not the right move.
"For the smaller side, it's been incredibly hard, and that's why people have been looking at these non-traditional sources," he said.
"We raised our money out of the Australian market and then we've also been looking at non-traditional sources of financing.
"In the Canadian market, capital has really been heavily dominated by the cannabis market and six months before that was crypto, and that's really led to a dearth of financing alternatives and opportunities."
"The only really positive active market [has been] the Asia Pacific market, and the Australian market was pretty good but ... you need to have worked in Australia and know the people, and it's a relatively small market so if you haven't been in that market for 10-15 years, you're not really considered an insider to it."
Giyani had just under $120,000 in working capital at the end of September.
Birchall said local finance was not an option in Botswana as it is in East Africa, because of the conservative stance of local investors.
"Botswana is quite a sophisticated market. It has an exchange, it has the usual traditional intermediaries you would find in a more developed market," he said.
"But they are more about wealth preservation than they are about capital growth or accumulation. [It's] not because we didn't ask - we did ask, but there's no appetite to invest.
"Maybe in the future, if we're a cashflowing business, people will take a stake in it because they're looking for a little bit of dividend return, it's a different model."
The UK doesn't hold much more promise for Giyani either, similar to Shanta and Kefi.
"The UK market has really been suffering, from the overall gloom of Brexit and uncertainty," he said.
"That's definitely affected the capital raises of smaller companies."
It's apparently a different story in another country with a long history of resource exploitation.
TSXV-listed Thor Explorations has properties in Nigeria, Senegal and Burkina Faso.
CEO Segun Lawson said there had been plenty of interest in Nigeria.
"With Nigeria having the largest economy in Africa, there is a sophisticated investor base that has had success investing in the oil and gas sector amongst others," he told Mining Journal.
"We have been successful in raising some of our funding from local backers from our host country who have remained on our register as long-term supportive shareholders."
Thor also has the backing of Sprott, which ran a $6 million private placement last year.
Holding a carry
Ethiopia's participation in the Kefi financing is positive sign for the country's interest in mining.
Elsewhere on the continent, it's not hard to find countries demanding a share without anything in return.
Rainbow Rare Earths had to hand over 10% of its Gakara project to the murderous dictatorship it operates in, Burundi.
Orca Gold will also see 20% of its Block 14 project in Sudan go to the government, although the Canadian company has said the stake would come from its junior partner's 30% holding.
Moving to a more proven mining jurisdiction, South Africa flirted with 5% free carry each for workers and communities in one version of its new mining charter, but the community section was ultimately dropped by mining minister Gwede Mantashe in favour of direct investment in programmes and projects.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has long taken part in mining endeavours, through the state company Gecamines, although its rhetoric- and lawsuit-heavy style of partnership has left Glencore and others likely plugging ‘shooting yourself in the foot' into Google Translate.
But miners have clearly got over these carry and free carry requirements (although South Africa's new rules are yet to be tested), while Ethiopia's performance as a financial partner will be shown in the coming years.
Fellow Ethiopia gold developer East Africa Metals has kept running on a much-extended related-party loan after trying to raise cash all through 2018.
Companies digging hard for funding is not a new experience, especially for those like Hummingbird Resources who managed it during the downturn, but now those holding the purse strings are taking an even harder line on risk and return.
The investors in London, Canada and Australia who have backed projects for a long time in Africa may be far more prudent now by avoiding jurisdictions like Ethiopia and Tanzania, but they may find the opportunities drying up if that attitude continues.