In Zambia, a $150 million investment will be made by KoBold Metals, backed by billionaires Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson, in the copper-cobalt mine Mingomba. KoBold Metals and EMR Capital, and Zambian firm ZCCM Investments Holdings will share a majority stake in the project in this joint venture. Zambia is Africa’s second-largest copper producer.
Artificial intelligence to be used in the search for rare metals
KoBold, founded in 2018, counts among its backer’s big names such as Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and Breakthrough Energy Ventures. The latter is financed by well-known billionaires including Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Bloomberg founder Michael Bloomberg, American billionaire investor, and hedge fund manager Ray Dalio, and Virgin Group’s founder Richard Branson.
BHP (ASX, LON, NYSE: BHP) has struck a deal to use artificial intelligence tools developed by KoBold Metals, a start-up backed by a coalition of billionaires including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, to look for critical materials used in electric vehicles (EVs) and clean energy technologies.
The world’s largest miner and the Silicon Valley-based tech firm will jointly fund and operate exploration using data processing technology to help predict the location of metals such as cobalt, nickel, and copper, starting in Western Australia.
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KoBold Metals — which counts Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures and No 1 miner BHP Group Ltd among its shareholders — will use its AI technology to process drilling data and optimize exploration for copper and cobalt at Mingomba. Located near Zambia’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, it’s the world’s highest-grade undeveloped large deposit of copper, according to the company.
Mining companies have been warning of looming copper deficits, driven by rising demand for the metal in the wind and solar farms, high-voltage cables, and electric vehicles. That green revolution is spurring competition for scarce resources, with the US playing catch-up after Chinese firms long dominated mining investment in Africa.
“We’ve seen in Zambia and across the region an intense effort by the People’s Republic of China to try to lock up access to a lot of critical minerals,” Mike Gonzales, US ambassador to Zambia, said in an interview. “And so this investment is really important.”
It’s a rare US private investment in the southern African nation’s mining industry,and a boost for Zambia’s ambitions to more than triple copper production over the next decade. The country is the continent’s No 2 producer after Congo.
Mingomba’s average copper grades are about six times higher than those found in Chile, the world’s biggest producer. High concentrations of the metal in the earth’s crust are becoming increasingly difficult to find, and there’s growing interest in a region many big miners had neglected for decades.
“This is a perfect fit for what we do as a technology-guided exploration company,” KoBold President Josh Goldman said in an interview, as the firm announced the investment on Wednesday. “We want to get the highest quality resource developed as quickly as possible.”
KoBold is buying into what will be a joint venture with the existing owners of Mingomba, EMR Capital. That private equity company, which operates the neighboring Lubambe mine, said in 2020 the new deposit could support a mine that would cost about US$1 billion to develop and produce as much as 160,000 tons of copper a year.
Those estimates — which would make it Zambia’s third-biggest copper mine — are reasonable, though the output may be even higher, according to KoBold. The project has enough copper to produce 100 million electric vehicles, according to KoBold’s Goldman.
Sam Altman, the founder of Y Combinator and chief executive officer of OpenAI, has invested personally in KoBold through his Apollo Projects vehicle. So has T Rowe Price Group Inc. and Andreessen Horowitz, known for investing in Airbnb Inc, Lyft Inc, and Slack.
KoBold, which raised US$192.5 million in February, has hired software engineers from Google, Lyft, and Apple Inc.
“None of them would’ve taken a call from a mining company, but they’re like: ‘Oh wait for a second’,” said Goldman. “Cool technology and technology that we need to solve a really urgent societal problem. We’re either gonna have the metals or we’re not gonna have the electric cars.”
Michael Bloomberg, the owner of Bloomberg News, is an investor in Breakthrough Energy Ventures, according to the company’s website.
The fund raised another $1 billion earlier this year to bankroll more startups, with Gates as the largest investor. Some of the 24 other billionaire backers include Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Bloomberg LP founder Michael Bloomberg, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, and mutual fund giant Fidelity CEO Abigail Johnson.
Gates told Forbes in February that he would “put in at least $2 billion” more toward zero-carbon technologies over the next five years.
Continue Reading: Forbes (https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrickcai/2021/04/22/five-companies-bill-gates-and-other-billionaires-are-backing-to-save-the-planet/?sh=270a995552a9 )
Additional Information about Jeff Bezos:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was reported that Bezos’s fortune had grown by $24 billion, citing a surge in demand from households on lockdown shopping on Amazon. He further expanded his residential holdings in February 2022, purchasing a $16.13 million dollar apartment at a 24-story boutique condominium, located across from Madison Square Park in the Flatiron neighborhood, where he already owns all the units on the top floors.
Bezos is the owner of the Y721, a luxury superyacht estimated to cost more than $500,000,000. Once built, it will be the largest yacht in the world.
In April 2020, early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Bezos donated $100 million to food banks through Feeding America. In November 2021, Bezos pledged to donate $2 billion towards restructuring food systems and nature conservation at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Additional Information about Richard Branson :
Branson discusses climate change with the United States Secretary of State John Kerry in 2016
In 2006, Branson made a high-profile pledge to invest $3 billion toward addressing global warming over the course of the following decade. However, author and activist Naomi Klein has criticized Branson for contributing “well under $300 million” as of 2014, far below the originally stated goal. Additionally, Klein says Virgin airlines’ greenhouse gas emissions increased considerably in the years following his pledge.