KoBold Metals, a start-up with a team of mostly PhDs backed by a coalition of billionaires is on a global search for key battery metals cobalt, lithium and nickel, as well as copper, which is key to the green energy transition.
The search began last year for cobalt in northern Quebec, just south of Glencore’s Raglan nickel mine using advanced mapping technology.
KoBold, founded in November 2018, is backed by big names such as Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and Breakthrough Energy Ventures. The latter is financed by tycoons including Jeff Bezos, Ray Dalio, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson and Bill Gates.
The company aims to create a “Google Maps” of the Earth’s crust, collecting and analyzing multiple streams of data — from old drilling results to satellite imagery — to better understand where new deposits might be found.
CEO Kurt House is an entrepreneur with a background in oil and gas, but said a few years ago he switched gears, aiming for a more solutions-oriented approach to global warming. House has a Ph.D. from Harvard University in earth & planetary science and is an Adjunct Professor in Stanford University’s Energy Resources Engineering Department.
“We own about 800 square kilometers of exploration tenements in Northern Quebec,” House told MINING.COM. “It’s a large holding, very prospective, very interesting terrain.”
House said KoBold now has active exploration projects in Zambia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Western Australia, and that the firm has recently partnered with both minor and major miners, declining to name companies.
House said that as they conduct geophysical surveys, they get the data in real time and make subsurface predictions based on machine algorithms that identify areas of high interest.
“What we’re doing is taking all manner of data about the physics and chemistry of the earth’s crust…and aggregated huge amounts of information,” House said.
KoBold is using statistics to combine data and make predictions on the probability that at any point in the earth’s crust, [there is] an ore grade concentration with the right compilation. The company’s global database algorithms work across data sets, House said, making predictions about places where there is no data.
House emphasized the global pace of discovery is not anywhere close to where it has to be to stay ahead of global warming, and the pace must increase, through greater exploration expenditure, or through greater efficiency, for greater success for the same expenditure.
“To solve global warming, we have to fully electrify the entire economy, including the transportation fleet. There are currently 1.3 billion cars on the planet,” House said. “By mid-century, that will be close to 3 billion, just light duty cars. To make all of those electric vehicles, as opposed to internal combustible engine, you’ll need more than $5 trillion worth of cobalt, nickel, lithium and copper. That’s incremental, in addition to all the demand for those materials, for just business as usual activities.”
House said they can figure out what piece of information has the greatest effect on reducing uncertainty of the prediction at a location, and that they are staking entirely new areas, and projects are more developed that they’ve partnered on.
House said KoBold Metals is currently running geophysical surveys in Zambia, and will be running them in North America and Australia in the next two months.
The company is aiming to have drills mobilized this summer in North America.