BHP has partnered with Silicon Valley-based AI-powered mineral exploration company KoBold Metals to explore battery minerals in Australia and other countries.
Under the partnership, the two firms will jointly fund the exploration programmes, starting in Western Australia.
Using KoBold’s AI technology, the partners will explore metals such as cobalt and nickel, which are used in the manufacture of batteries implemented in electric vehicles (EVs) and clean energy technologies.
KoBold uses data-crunching algorithms to help make decisions on land acquisitions and drilling sites.
The company is backed by Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, among others.
KoBold CEO Kurt House told Reuters that the partnership plans to explore an area exceeding 500,000km² in Western Australia.
BHP metals exploration vice-president Keenan Jennings said: “Globally, shallow ore deposits have largely been discovered, and remaining resources are likely deeper underground and harder to see from the surface.
“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.”
The partnership is expected to help KoBold access BHP’s exploration databases built up over many years while the Australian miner will focus on expanding its portfolio of ‘future-facing commodities’.
House was quoted by Bloomberg as saying: “In Western Australia, there’s extensive information. A lot of this data is dark data – it hasn’t been used more than once.”
According to House, the discovery zones over the next 20 years will be located at depths between 200m and 1,500m.
Reuters quoted House as saying: “That’s the area that is very poorly explored (and) is likely to host a tremendous number of ore bodies.”
Last month, KoBold and Bluejay Mining signed a joint venture agreement for the Disko-Nuussuaq project in Greenland.