Gold miner shares continue to lag the precious metal’s price as bullion-backed exchange traded funds have made it much easier to invest in physical gold.

Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEArca: GDX) fell to a fresh 52-week low on Tuesday and is in negative territory for 2012. [Gold Miner ETFs Decline]

The rising popularity and ease of investing in gold ETFs has likely diverted money away from miner stocks. [Gold Miner ETFs May be Near Turning Point]

“Gold ETFs are designed to move in tandem with the price of bullion as each share of the fund is backed with metal. Shareholders of producers, by contrast, may suffer the effects of mining accidents, cost overruns, asset writedowns or broader stock market swings,” according to a recent Bloomberg report.

Gold miner ETFs have also been much more volatile than bullion prices.