Gates-backed start-up seeks copper from Zambia to convert to green energy | Jobs Recent

The Bill Gates-backed mining start-up has agreed to invest $150 million in a Zambian project that will use artificial intelligence to search for copper, the metal key to the transition to green energy.

KoBold Metals – which owns Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and BHP Group’s number one shareholder miner – will use its AI technology to process drilling data and optimize copper and cobalt exploration in Mingomba.

Located near Zambia’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is the world’s largest undeveloped major copper deposit, according to the company.

Mining companies warn of an impending copper shortage, fueled by growing demand for the metal in wind and solar farms, high-voltage cables and electric vehicles.

This green revolution is spurring competition for scarce resources, with the US catching up after Chinese companies have long dominated mining investments in Africa.

“We have seen in Zambia and across the region intense efforts by the People’s Republic of China to block access to many critical minerals,” Mike Gonzales, the US ambassador to Zambia, said in an interview. “So this investment is really important.”

It is a rare private US investment in a South African country’s mining industry and is the impetus for Zambia’s ambition to more than triple copper production over the next decade. The country is the second largest producer on the continent after the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The average copper content of Mingomba is about six times higher than that of Chile, the world’s largest producer. High concentrations of the metal in the earth’s crust are becoming harder to find, and interest in the region, which many large miners have neglected for decades, is growing.

“This is a perfect fit for what we do as a technology-driven exploration company,” KoBold CEO Josh Goldman said as the company announced the investment on Wednesday. “We want to develop a top-quality asset as quickly as possible.”

KoBold is buying what will be a joint venture with Mingomba’s current owners, EMR Capital. The private equity company that operates the neighboring Lubambe mine said the new deposit could support a mine that would cost around $1 billion to develop and produce up to 160,000 tonnes of copper a year in 2020.

This estimate – which would make it Zambia’s third-largest copper mine – is reasonable, although production could be even higher, according to KoBold. According to Goldman, the project has enough copper to produce 100 million electric vehicles.

Sam Altman, founder of Y Combinator and CEO of OpenAI, personally invested in KoBold through his Apollo Projects vehicle. Similarly, T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and Andreessen Horowitz, known for investing in Airbnb Inc., Lyft Inc. and Slack.

KoBold, which raised $192.5 million in February, hired software engineers from Google, Lyft and Apple.

“None of them would pick up a call from a mining company, but they say, ‘Wait a minute,'” Goldman said. “Cool tech and technology we need to solve a really pressing societal problem. Either we will have metals or we will not have electric cars.”

Updated: December 17, 2022, 03:30

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