Kobold Metals plans to use algorithms to explore for cobalt in Canada

July 7, 2020

Kobold Metals, the startup mining company that has the backing of Bill Gates and others, announced plans to search for cobalt in northern Quebec using data-crunching algorithms in place of traditional exploration methods.

Bloomberg News reported that Kobold Metals has acquired rights to an area of about 1,000 km2 (386 sq miles) in northern Quebec near a nickel mine owned by Glencore Plc., according to Chief Executive Officer Kurt House. Bloomberg reported that it’s the first such foray by the company to become public.

Based in the San Francisco Bay area, Kobold Metals is hoping to use data analytics to build a “Google Maps for the earth’s crust.” The company is betting it can find metals crucial to the electric-vehicle revolution, such as cobalt, that so far have eluded more traditionally minded geologists.

House said the company’s exploration activities at the site in Quebec could help prove the value of its approach.

“The subtleties in the geophysical signals are really only evident when you have all of the data and can evaluate it in a systematic, statistically rigorous way,” he said. “It’s just too much for the human brain to handle.”

The company will likely begin collecting data in three to six months and could begin drilling operations in the next year or two. The area, just south of Glencore’s Raglan nickel mine, is highly prospective for cobalt, nickel and platinum-group metals, House said.

Shareholders of Kobold Metals include Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, Norwegian oil major Equinor ASA and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund backed by Gates and a dozen other tycoons including Jeff Bezos, Ray Dalio and Michael Bloomberg.

House said exploration in Quebec was one of a number of activities that Kobold Metals was pursuing, including forging partnerships with mining companies to help identify ways to expand their existing resources.


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