KoBold Metals, a Berkeley-based mining business that uses AI to mine for rare earth elements, has completed a funding round that gives it the status of an A.I. “unicorn” and attracts some of the world’s largest investors.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a Bill Gates-backed venture capital organization that invests in renewable energy firms on behalf of people like Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma, contributed to the $200 million round.
Bond Capital, co-founded by Mary Meeker, a veteran venture capitalist famous for foreseeing major industry shifts years in advance and whose annual Internet Trends Report is one of the most eagerly awaited publications among tech financiers, was another investment alongside the immensely renowned Andreessen Horowitz.
KoBold is now worth over $1 billion thanks to the funding round. The company raised a total of $192.5M during its previous investment round in February of 2022. Bond also participated in that previous round, along with Breakthrough Energy Ventures.
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KoBold Metals Uses AI to Find Critical Metals for Electric Vehicles
KoBold was established in 2018 and employs machine learning to explore reserves of lithium, nickel, cobalt, and copper, all of which are essential in the production of batteries for electric vehicles.
More than $100 million per year is being invested by the organization in more than 60 projects spread across three continents. It has a sizable budget for R&D focused on artificial intelligence for modeling the earth’s subsurface and investigating depths unreachable by traditional methods.
KoBold uses “proprietary A.I. tools” to “determine which data to collect at each exploration step, to maximize uncertainty reduction.” These tools are based on a notion the firm calls “efficacy of information,” which allows “our proprietary A.I. tools” to do their job.
The business claims that while drilling to reach the metals may take longer, it will be more targeted. For instance, the anticipated return on investment for the recently acquired copper deposit in Zambia is eight years.
The need for metals including nickel, cobalt, copper, and lithium is growing. KoBold forecasts that by 2050, supply will fall short of demand by $12 trillion.