It’s an admission of defeat, a self-imposed penalty for a poor investment decision.

It’s particularly hard if you’ve held a stock for years, through happier times when it was worth much more and you’ve dipped your hand into your pocket to support the company when it needed cash in the past.

So it’s not surprising that the small retail investors of Atlas Iron feel indignant that Chris Ellison’s Mineral Resources is valuing their shares at just 3¢ as part of a US$360 ($280) million all-scrip takeover of the miner announced this week.

Many have already committed to voting against the friendly deal via online investor forum HotCopper.

Typically the opinions of small retail shareholders don’t move the dial in corporate deals. Big institutions, high net-worth individuals and directors decide the fate of companies given their generally larger holdings but Atlas is different.

Most of the big instos abandoned the company a long time ago.

Atlas’ 2017 annual report showed it had 31,560 individual shareholders, including almost 19,000 with total stakes valued at US$388 ($500) or less. Of these, 5000 hold stakes worth less than US$15.55 ($20).

It seems Atlas, which has a massive 9.2 billion shares on issue after a series of dilutive capital raisings in recent years, never had the spare cash to buy back unmarketable parcels or the time to conduct a share consolidation.

And now these shareholders will have a chance to vote on a scheme of arrangement effecting the takeover at a meeting in July. Approval will require a 50 per cent majority of shareholders voting and a 75 per cent majority of the votes cast.

If aggrieved shareholders vote “no” en masse, they could scuttle the deal. But what’s plan B?

There is no guarantee MinRes will return with a sweetener. The shrewd Mr Ellison is just as likely to walk as he has done in the past, most recently opting out of a bidding war for AWE.

He’s made it clear his Bulk Ore Shuttle System proposal stacks up on the company’s existing Iron Valley deposit alone.

And a rival bid seems unlikely. Atlas is not even a blip on the radar of Rio Tinto and BHP. Fortescue has little need for its ground given its own vast Pilbara footprint and existing mine replacement plans.

And its new chief executive Elizabeth Gaines has made it clear she prefers organic growth. Any other aspirant would have difficulty in making a case for coming over the top of MinRes in the next few weeks given record stockpiles of low-grade ore sitting at Chinese ports.

In fact, it’s the big and lingering discounts for low-grade ore that’s making life so difficult for Atlas, particularly given the high costs of having to truck it to port.

Atlas shareholders may be justified in complaining that MinRes is picking up its one billion tonne resource, 13Mtpa in port capacity and US$388 ($500) million in tax loss credits cheaply but what’s the alternative?