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Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos Are Backing This $1 Billion Mining Company That Uses AI to Find Rare Earth Metals

Motley Fool - Fri Jun 23, 9:00AM CDT

Mining's biggest companies are already using artificial intelligence for a variety of purposes such as improving safety and efficiency. But an up-and-coming player has a technology that's wowed venture capital firms backed by some of the world's most famous investors.

I'm talking about KoBold Metals. The mineral exploration company, through AI, discovers rare earth metals needed to power electric vehicles (EV). If KoBold is successful over time, this could be a big win for its investors -- and for the EV industry. Let's find out more about the company that may add to Bill Gates' and Jeff Bezos' successes.

A $200 million funding round

Breakthrough Energy Ventures, founded by Gates and supported by Bezos as well as other billionaires -- from Jack Ma to Mark Zuckerberg -- participated in a $200 million funding round that brought KoBold's value to more than $1 billion. The story was originally reported by the Wall Street Journal.

KoBold uses AI to find metals needed for EV batteries. These include lithium, nickel, and cobalt. This is particularly critical for the future of EVs because the big challenge is supply. KoBold predicts a $12 trillion gap between the supply of these metals and demand as of 2050.

Today, KoBold aims to create the world's biggest collection of geoscience data. The company is using AI "to model the sub-surface and explore at depths beyond the reach of conventional techniques." KoBold already has put its technology to work on more than 60 mineral exploration projects.

If KoBold is able to help solve the metals supply problem, this could be a huge victory for EV makers, like market leader Tesla. Of course, this won't happen overnight. But if KoBold makes progress, this could encourage more people to buy EVs -- and more investors to buy shares of EV makers.

Now, let's turn to the subject of AI in mining. The industry is expanding at a compound annual growth rate of about 23%, according to GlobalData. KoBold isn't a publicly traded company. But if you want to get in on the AI in mining growth story you still can. Many of the world's top mining companies are using and exploring AI today.

Leading adopters of AI

Among the biggest adopters of the technology are Barrick Gold and BHP Group, GlobalData research shows. For example, BHP has a vast fleet of autonomous trucks -- this has increased productivity and cut costs. And the mining giant uses machine learning to better understand geological data.

BHP recently partnered with Microsoft to use AI at the world's largest copper mine. The company will use real time plant data and Microsoft's Azure AI-based predictions to fine tune operational variables involved in copper recovery.

Barrick, the world's biggest gold miner, also is relying on AI to analyze data and improve precision and efficiency.

It's clear Bill Gates and other billionaires are wise to invest in a young mining company focused on AI. The technology has great potential in this market because it can help solve major problems like matching supply to demand. And this is great news for companies -- such as EV makers -- that rely on mining.

AI also can help make mines safer, more efficient -- and help preserve the environment. For instance, AI can help companies determine beforehand the potential environmental impact of mining at a certain site.

AI could eventually transform the mining industry. And for investors, that means it may be worth making room in your portfolio for mining companies that are taking the lead.

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Adria Cimino has positions in Tesla. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Microsoft and Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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