KoBold Metals, a mining venture backed by a coalition of billionaires including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, is expanding its presence in Zambia after signing a deal with Midnight Sun Mining to explore the Dumbwa target at the Solwezi copper project.

The US-based start-up wants to earn a 75% stake in the Dumbwa target, which it could achieve by spending $15m on exploration and making cash payments totalling $500,000 over four-and-a-half years.

Midnight Sun president and chief executive Al Fabbro said: “We look forward to KoBold applying their groundbreaking exploration approach to the Dumbwa Target and moving this important Zambian copper asset toward development together, which we view as perfectly timed to coincide with an upcoming phase of unprecedented global copper demand.”

According to Mfikeyi Makayi, KoBold Metals Africa CEO, the Dumbwa target has a structural setting comparable with other major deposits in the region.

She added: “The KoBold sediment-hosted copper team has decades of experience working in the African Copperbelt, which we will combine with our library of analytical tools and proprietary technology to aggressively explore at Dumbwa.”

Kobold has already established a presence in Zambia, including its flagship Mingomba project for which it is currently completing a pre-feasibility study and resource definition drilling. According to KoBold president Josh Golman, the resource is likely to be “extraordinary”.

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Backed by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund with contributions from investors such as Richard Branson and Ray Dalio, KoBold utilises artificial intelligence to locate key minerals such as copper, cobalt, nickel and lithium. The start-up claims the technology will locate resources that may have eluded traditional geologists, helping miners decide where to acquire land and drill.

Kobold is currently advancing 60 projects spanning Africa, North America, Australia and Asia.