Van Eck, the provider of one of the top-performing gold-focused exchange traded funds (ETFs) this year, has launched a new fund today targeting the small- and mid-cap gold mining companies.

Junior Gold Miners ETF (NYSEArca: GDXJ) is the latest fund from Van Eck. The index gives exposure to small- and mid-cap companies that derive at least 50% of their revenues from gold or silver. The smaller mining companies that are featured in the index may have greater volatility and risk because of their size. On the flip side, there’s plenty of potential for growth in these smaller companies. It’s also worth noting that small- and mid-caps tend to do better in recovery periods, since they’re more nimble and quick to adapt as economic conditions shift. (Is the timing right for small-caps?)

Top country weighting are Canada, United States, Australia, South Africa, China and the United Kingdom. This ETF gives an alternative approach to investing in smaller or junior sized companies that have lots of growth potential while giving exposure to a dynamic subset of the gold mining industry. The ETF holds 38 junior mining companies and has an expense ratio of 0.60%.

Van Eck also offers the Market Vectors Gold Miners (NYSEArca: GDX), which is up 45.5% year-to-date, and has had a great 2009. (Other ways to play gold).

Gold has been a hit with investors this year due to the looming threat of inflation and the weakening if the U.S. dollar. (Other reasons gold prices could go higher). This week, gold has hit a record price of $1100 per troy ounce. (Read about gold pushing through the threshold here).

For more stories about gold, visit our gold category.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.