Miners are having to fight medical marijuana and crypto plays for much-needed cash, says a top industry player.

Rob Waugh, the boss of gold explorer Musgrave Minerals, said that while there has been a general improvement in investor sentiment over the past 12 to 18 months, there is now more competition for capital.

“We’re seeing competition not only within our industry across multiple commodities but from crypto and also from medicinal marijuana,” he said at an industry event in Perth yesterday.

“Recently I was talking to brokers in Melbourne. I came out of the interview and they were rushing me out to talk to a medical marijuana individual who was coming in to sell marijuana-infused honey.

“There is a necessity for companies to be more flexible in raising funds for greenfield exploration.”

This has pushed more junior explorers to seek out partnerships with larger players.

Musgrave has brought in gold producer Westgold Resources (ASX:WGX) as a significant shareholder to help it with the near-term development of its Cue project in Western Australia.

Westgold injected $3.4 million into Musgrave.

Sipa Resources (ASX:SRI) has also brought in a larger partner to help it fund its Kitgum Pader nickel and copper project in Uganda.

“Funding is a real issue for juniors and we’ve certainly had our issues as well, certainly through the downturn,” managing director Lynda Burnett said.

“We announced a deal nearly six weeks ago now with Rio Tinto and they recognise we’ve made quite a globally significant discovery there and we’ve got further opportunity to define a whole province.”

Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) is “farming in” to the Kitgum Pader project.

A farm-in deal is a written agreement under which one party is entitled to acquire an interest in a mining tenement by carrying out exploration work.

Ms Burnett wants more private equity funds and individual investors to sink at least some of their cash into exploration companies.

Meanwhile, George Bauk, the boss of emerging rare earths producer Northern Minerals (ASX:NTU), says it’s tough to keep investors interested.

“One of the problems with the equity markets we have is that people come and go in the new exciting thing if you like,” he said.

“We haven’t resolved the lithium supply challenges and people already jumped onto cobalt.

“There’s a lot of equity markets that are looking for the 10-baggers and once they sort of feel that it’s out, they’ve already moved onto the next one.

“So keeping the attention span of funds and money is very complex and difficult.”