As the global shift towards renewable energy sources accelerates, there is a growing demand for minerals such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel that are essential for solar panels, electric cars, batteries, and wind turbines. However, locating and mining these critical minerals can be a costly and challenging process. In an effort to streamline this process, a Berkeley-based startup called KoBold Metals is leveraging artificial intelligence (AI).
KoBold aims to transform mineral exploration into a data-driven science and specializes in metals for electric vehicle batteries. Rather than conducting mining operations themselves, the company focuses on locating new deposits and partnering with existing mining companies to help them extract metals more efficiently.
One of KoBold’s key tools is TerraShed, a data system that consolidates public-domain geoscience data from various sources and standardizes the representation of information. This comprehensive database includes everything from rock type maps and geochemical measurements to satellite imagery of mineral reflectance on the Earth’s surface. The system’s algorithms analyze relevant data at each stage of the mineral exploration process, from identifying potential deposits to constructing new mines.
To make sense of this extensive data and guide decision-making, KoBold utilizes a machine learning tool called Machine Prospector. This tool is trained on historic geological data and enables the company to process vast amounts of information quickly. Similar to how AI models can simulate the interactions of millions of proteins, Machine Prospector leverages the efficiency of AI to derive valuable insights from diverse combinations of data.
By leveraging AI, KoBold addresses the challenge of finding new mineral deposits that are becoming increasingly difficult to locate. Most easily accessible mineral deposits near the Earth’s surface have already been discovered. Consequently, discovering and extracting the required minerals for renewable energy technologies will require innovative approaches and technologies.
Currently, KoBold is involved in over 60 exploration projects across three continents, showcasing the scale and ambition of their efforts to advance the transition to renewable energy.