KoBold Metals partners with Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences to accelerate critical mineral discoveries

William Gleason

March 18, 2021

KoBold Metals, a mining and exploration technology company that quickly gained wide recognition because of the support from the Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos-backed climate technology fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, announced a partnership with the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geoscience (iCRAG) to research the formation of critical raw materials central to the timely transition to clean energy.

Kurt House, cofounder and CEO of KoBold Metals told Mining Engineering that through the partnership with iCRAG, KoBold hopes to better identify and discover deposits of the critical minerals needed for widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and the ongoing transition to a renewable energy economy.

“Stopping climate change requires fully electrifying the global automotive fleet, which in turn requires mining a lot more critical EV materials such as nickel, cobalt, lithium and copper,” said House. “By better understanding how high-grade deposits of these metals form, we will be better equipped to make exploration decisions and increase discovery success rates.”

KoBold estimates that meeting global climate goals such as the Paris Climate Agreement will require discovering more than $5 trillion of incremental copper, nickel, cobalt and lithium at an unprecedented pace in a time when exploration success rates have slowed.

“The exploration success rate is not only low, but it has been decreasing over the last two decades and that coincides with the time that we need to be finding more deposits,” said House. “The easy discoveries have all been made.”

The current, slow pace of discovery is insufficient to provide the battery metals needed in time to meet these stated international objectives. To better understand the origin of these key minerals and to accelerate their discovery, KoBold and iCRAG are partnering to better understand the formation and exploration of critical material deposits.

“iCRAG is delighted to announce KoBold Metals as a new industry partner. The collaboration strengthens iCRAG’s internationalization efforts, extends the Centre’s global reputation, and provides partnership opportunities for companies based on the U.S. West Coast,” said professor Murray Hitzman, Director of iCRAG. “Advancing the green transition is a central goal of iCRAG’s research activities, and this strategic collaboration with KoBold Metals allows our researchers to combine their expertise in geochemistry with the latest advances in machine learning to aid in the mineral exploration that is central to decarbonization.”

As part of this collaboration, iCRAG researchers will use cutting-edge microscopy, geochemistry and spectrometry techniques with resources at the iCRAG Labs at Trinity College Dublin to evaluate mineral deposits containing cobalt and other elements often found in proximity to cobalt, such as nickel and arsenic. In particular, the research project will focus on examining mineral samples from the Kisanfu Cobalt-Copper deposit in the Democratic Republic of Congo to better understand how cobalt deposits form. Analysis from this research will form the basis for enhancements to KoBold’s proprietary suite of algorithms called Machine Prospector, which allows mineral explorers to make more accurate decisions, reduce false positives and lower exploration costs. In doing so, the technology helps increase the rate of discovery to realize the EV revolution as efficiently and sustainably as possible.

“We are trying to understand the mineralogy, what other elements are in these sulfides besides cobalt and copper, are there any other trace elements that might be important and might help us fingerprint,” Hitzman told Mining Engineering. “The idea is to understand why this particular deposit is so good because if we can find that out it might help us find another deposit that is just as good.”

KoBold’s team combines career mineral explorers, who have collectively made nearly 20 discoveries, with data science alumni from top technology companies. Most recently, the company partnered with Stanford University’s Center for Earth Resource Forecasting and Professor Jef Caers to develop first-of-its-kind artificial intelligence to find new deposits rich in critical battery metals and located in reliable jurisdictions with strong labor practices.

Photo: Professor Murry Hitzman, director of iCRAG
 

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