Could AI help find valuable mineral deposits? (The Economist – November 7, 2023)

Computers have keener eyes than geologists

The future is electric. That means it will need a lot of batteries, motors and wires. That, in turn, means a lot of cobalt, copper, lithium and nickel with which to build them. Great times, then, for prospectors, and particularly for any who think they can increase the efficiency of their profession.

Several firms are applying artificial intelligence (ai) to the process, both to improve the odds of surface strikes and to detect underground ore bodies that are invisible to current techniques.

KoBold Metals in Berkeley, California, Earth ai in San Francisco and Verai in Boston are tiddlers at the moment, as are SensOre, in Melbourne and OreFox, in Brisbane.

But at least one bigger fish—Rio Tinto, an Australian-British firm—is also keen. They are garnering reams of geological, geochemical and geophysical data to feed to software models. These, they hope, will spot patterns and draw inferences about where to sink new mines.

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