Bill Gates-backed KoBold Metals is the Silicon Valley’s newest unicorn

Bill Gates at Hioe Charity Forum. (Image courtesy of Greg Rubenstein | Flickr Commons.)

Berkeley-based mining company KoBold Metals has hit the $1 billion unicorn valuation, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Its most recent $200 million round included money from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a Bill Gates-backed venture capital firm that invests in clean energy companies on behalf of people including Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma.

Founded in 2018, KoBold uses machine learning to look for deposits of critical minerals like copper, nickel, lithium and cobalt.

“Our proprietary A.I. tools build on a concept we call efficacy of information (EOI), enabl[ing] KoBold to determine which data to collect at each exploration step, to maximize uncertainty reduction,” the company’s website states.

It might take longer to reach the metals, but the drilling will be precision-focused, the company says.

In December, KoBold committed $150 million to develop the Mingomba copper-cobalt mine in Zambia, said to be the world’s highest-grade undeveloped large deposit of the orange metal.

The company’s quest for battery metals began three years ago in Canada, after it acquired rights to an area of about 1,000 square km (386 sq. miles) in northern Quebec, just south of Glencore’s Raglan nickel mine.

It now has about a dozen exploration properties in Zambia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Western Australia, which have resulted from joint ventures with BHP and with BlueJay Mining (LON: JAY) to explore for minerals in Greenland.