A coalition of billionaires led by Bill Gates has thrown its financial weight behind a startup hoping to build a “Google Maps for the earth’s crust” to hunt for new sources of cobalt.
The startup, Kobold Metals, is using data-crunching algorithms to scour the globe for cobalt, in a bet that there may still be significant undiscovered sources of the metal that has become one of the world’s hot commodities thanks to its use in electric vehicle batteries.
The company has raised money from Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund backed by Gates and a dozen other tycoons including Jeff Bezos, Ray Dalio and Michael Bloomberg, owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
Kobold Metals is betting it will be able to find new sources of the metal using what it calls “machine prospecting.” The company is building a database of geological data that it then feeds into an algorithm, hunting for signals that indicate the likelihood of increased concentration of cobalt.
“What we’re building is basically Google Maps for the earth’s crust and below,” said Connie Chan, partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Kurt House, the chief executive officer of Kobold Metals, says the approach could succeed because mining companies have traditionally not focused on looking for cobalt.
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