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BHP teams up with KoBold Metals to search for critical minerals

September 8, 2021

BHP Group announced that it will partner with KoBold Metals to search for what it calls “future facing commodities” as it expects electric vehicles and green energy will be in high demand.

KoBold Metals is a mining and exploration technology company that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to hunt for raw materials. It gained recognition because of support from the Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos-backed climate technology fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures. In this partnership, BHP Group, the largest mining company in the world, will use the technology created by KoBold to search for critical minerals in Australia and other locations around the world.

Reuters reported that miners have been moving toward machine learning to find underground deposits in recent years, leading to some big discoveries, such as Rio Tinto’s copper project Winu.

“Globally, shallow ore deposits have largely been discovered, and remaining resources are likely deeper underground and harder to see from the surface,” said Keenan Jennings, vice-president of BHP Metals Exploration.

“We need new approaches to find the next generation of essential minerals and this alliance will combine historical data, artificial intelligence and geoscience expertise to uncover what has previously been hidden,” he said.

The alliance will cover an area in Western Australia of more than 500,000 sq km (193,000 sq miles), KoBold CEO Kurt House told Reuters.

“Exploration success rates have been declining over the last couple of decades because the easy things have been found. The discovery zones during the next 20 years will be at depths of 200 to 1,500 meters. That’s the area that is very poorly explored and is likely to host a tremendous number of ore bodies,” House said.

KoBold has a dozen tie-ups across about 20 locations including Sub-Saharan Africa, North America and Australia looking for copper, cobalt, nickel and lithium. He added that Australia has some of the world’s best mapping data for prospective minerals and its regulatory environment make it an attractive destination.

KoBold is closely watching development of a bill to protect Aboriginal heritage in Western Australia. Indigenous groups have protested a draft of the bill because it denies them final say over protection of sacred sites, which could become a governance issue for miners and investors.

KoBold is planning to set up an Australian office in the next 12 months and is looking for other exploration partners.

 

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