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Skepticism about next bull market prevails despite better sentiment

Sentiment across the mining industry continues to improve as investors and producers become more upbeat about the outlook for the sector, feedback from this year's Mines and Money conference in London showed. Nonetheless, consensus remains divided on whether the sector is actually at the beginning of the next bull market.

Speakers and attendees alike painted a picture of confidence that growth fundamentals are stabilizing amid improving supply/demand dynamics and ongoing capital discipline, indicating that mining players stuck to their strategies of resilience that many implemented during the last downturn.

Compared to previous events, key takeaways from this year's conference pointed to an ongoing uptick in exploration activity as well as a rebound in liquidity and financing volumes flowing to the sector.

Lenders and fund managers remain selective in terms of ticket size and value propositions, meaning many of the smaller projects are still missing out. Grassroots projects, for example, continue to be overlooked in terms of funding.

Lacking returns from the sector are an additional reason why some institutions are keeping investment activity low for now, a fund manager from J.P. Morgan Asset Management said.

"At the moment we are not getting the flows, we are not getting the availability to do much more funding," said Neil Gregson, managing director and portfolio manager for global natural resources at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

While debt funds, sovereign wealth funds and new crowdfunding platforms have helped fill the funding gap, the so-called Initial Coin Offerings could present great opportunities for miners.

According to Frank Holmes, CEO and chief investment officer at US Funds, Initial Coin Offerings, unregulated offerings for new cryptocurrency ventures, could present an attractive alternative to traditional ways of raising capital, such as IPOs.