Mining Deploys Innovative Tech to Find Copper, Other EV Metals – by Yusuf Khan (Wall Street Journal – July 20, 2023)

Startups are developing new ways to increase yields and reduce waste, as the search for critical minerals intensifies

Miners are turning to machine learning, cutting-edge chemistry and other innovative means to increase the supply of critical materials such as copper and graphite amid the rising demand for green technologies.

In 2011, Nico Cuevas, a Mexican immigrant and Arizona resident, realized Tesla would require a source of graphite for battery anodes to build electric vehicles in the U.S. Fortunately, it just so happened that a friend’s family owned an artisanal graphite mine in Mexico. Unfortunately it mined the wrong type of graphite.

Twelve years later, Cuevas is chief executive of startup Urbix, an innovative graphite producer based in Mesa, Ariz. It uses machine learning to work out how to create uniform graphite anodes fit for use in EV batteries from a range of natural and synthetic forms of graphite. It has already agreed to supply SK On, a South Korean battery and chip maker, with graphite for its cells.

Urbix is one of a number of American startups developing alternative methods in the search for new supplies of critical minerals, providing crucial innovation as the supply of these materials grows ever tighter. Governments and companies are searching for new sources of critical minerals to meet rising demand for electric vehicles, batteries, renewables and electrification infrastructure.

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