Some of the most-impressive gains in the mining sector recently have come from some of its least-known stocks.
Endeavor Silver, an obscure Canadian company is up 95 percent in the last three months. Hecla Mining has climbed 85 percent and NovaGold Resources has more than doubled.
In contrast over the same period, large gold miners as measured by the Market Vectors Gold Miners exchange-traded fund (ETF) have climbed just 26 percent.
This marks the development of a new trend where investors hunt for bargains amid little-known gold and silver companies, many of which simply own properties but don't operate mines.
Those kind of companies are tracked by the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF.
That fund trailed the GDX for most of 2010 but has returned almost twice as much as the larger companies since the late summer.