… To Aid Electric Vehicles And Renewable Energy Quest
A startup is using artificial intelligence to find new sources of metals that power electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies.
With the world desperately in need of new supplies of lithium, cobalt and other metals to accelerate the shift to Electric Vehicles and renewable energy, and machine learning can help narrow the search.
Last week, the Silicon Valley-based startup, KoBold Metals — which is backed by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, among others, — announced a partnership with the world’s largest mining company, BHP Group, to use its technology to locate battery metal deposits.
The partnership will focus on a more than 193,000-square-mile area of Western Australia, a region KoBold CEO, Kurt House notes is “bigger than California.”
The search will focus on copper and nickel deposits believed buried 650 feet to 5,000 feet below the surface.
The big picture: “We need roughly $10 trillion worth of new discoveries of lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper and rare earth minerals just to be able to fully electrify the world’s passenger vehicle fleet,” says House.
“But exploration success rates have been declining in recent years because the easy surface deposits have been found and because there just hasn’t been a lot of investment in exploration technology,” he adds.
How it works: Conventional mining exploration involves collecting physical deposits from field sites and analyzing them, but that takes time, with plenty of false starts. By one assessment, only 1 in 100 sites will have a deposit that can be profitably mined, and that proportion has been dropping in recent years.
KoBold argues it can boost discovery rates 20-fold by tapping 160 years’ worth of scattered geological data, as well as new data taken from fresh surface readings, and using machine learning approaches to analyze it and indicate where mineable deposits are likely to be found underground.
“This is fundamentally an information problem with a search problem that’s perfectly set up for the kind of advanced scientific computing that has had minimal investment up to this point,” says House.
Between the lines: BHP’s partnership with KoBold is part of the mining giant’s effort to build out its portfolio of what it calls the “future-facing commodities” that will run the renewable-energy economy.