Gates, Bezos-backed KoBold Metals to build copper mine in Zambia within 10 years

KoBold Metals is involved in nearly 60 explorations projects across three continents. (Image courtesy of KoBold Metals.)

KoBold Metals, backed by a coalition of billionaires including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, said on Monday that aims at opening a new copper-cobalt mine in Zambia within 10 years.

The California-based company, which earlier this year earmarked $150 million for the Mingomba project, said the plan is to search for more deposits at the asset, said to be the world’s highest-grade undeveloped copper deposit. 

Kobold, which also counts the world’s top miner BHP as one of its shareholders, expects to complete additional exploration at the property next year.

“It’s a very attractive project and we have said within a decade we would want Mingomba to be a producing mine,” the company’s CEO Mfikeyi Makayi, told Reuters.

Its Mingomba copper project in Zambia, Africa’s second biggest producer of copper, contains 247 million tonnes of ore with an average grade of 3.64% copper. This figure represents about six times higher grades than those found in Chile, the world’s top copper producing nation, according to KoBold.  

The estimated cost of building the mine has been pegged at around $1 billion. It will be done through a joint venture with Australian private equity firm EMR Capital and state-backed miner ZCCM Investing Holdings (LON: ZCC).

AI-led exploration

Kobold’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 places including Zambia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Western Australia, which have resulted from joint ventures like with BHP and with BlueJay Mining (LON: JAY) to explore for minerals in Greenland. 

All those assets contain or are expected to be sources of battery metals.  

Using artificial intelligence, Kobold aims to create a “Google Maps” of the Earth’s crust, with a special focus on finding copper, cobalt, nickel and lithium deposits. 

It collects and analyzes multiple streams of data — from old drilling results to satellite imagery — to better understand where new deposits might be found.  

Algorithms applied to the data collected determine the geological patterns that indicate a potential deposit of cobalt, which occurs naturally alongside nickel and copper. 

The technology can locate resources that may have eluded more traditional geologists and can help miners decide where to acquire land and drill, the company said.

Copper is in high-demand due to its use in renewable energy and electric vehicles, but big, new deposits are rare. 

It is estimated that the global copper industry needs to spend more than $100 billion to build mines able to close what could be an annual supply deficit of 4.7 million tonnes by 2030.