On December 14th, 2022, KoBold Metals, a Silicon Valley company using artificial intelligence to discover critical minerals for the electric vehicle and renewable energy revolution, announced a $150 million investment to explore and develop Zambia’s Mingomba Deposit, the highest-grade undeveloped large copper resource in the world. The investment will be through a joint venture with specialist mining private equity firm EMR Capital and Zambia’s public-private mining company, ZCCM-IH.
The announcement, which followed the Biden Administration’s launch of both the American Battery Materials Initiative and the Minerals Security Partnership, was made during remarks by the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency President Hakainde Hichilema; KoBold President Josh Goldman; EMR Capital executives; and the Zambian Minister for Mining and Minerals Development Paul Kabuswe, at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC. KoBold stated it believes the Mingomba Deposit has the potential to become one of the world’s top-tier mines with enough copper for more than 100 million electric vehicles.
“Our government’s goal is to increase Zambia’s copper production from roughly 850 thousand metric tonnes per annum to 3 million metric tonnes over the next ten years,” said His Excellency Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia in prepared remarks. “Doing that requires more mineral exploration, new ideas, and new technology. That’s why I’m excited to announce KoBold’s $150 investment. KoBold has a reputation for moving fast. I hope they develop the Mingomba Deposit faster than any company before.”
“The Mingomba Copper Deposit is a world-class opportunity,” said KoBold President Josh Goldman. “It is perfectly suited to our AI exploration technology and will enable us to define a larger and higher-quality deposit at a record pace. We are excited to make the largest exploration investment in the Zambian Copperbelt for decades. We are accelerating investment here because Zambia has outstanding exploration opportunities and a great investment environment. We will continue to invest in Mingomba as we take it from exploration to development and significantly invest in the many other exploration opportunities in Zambia.” “We are delighted to partner with KoBold on this milestone transaction,” said EMR Capital Executive Chairman Owen Hegarty. “The investment into the Mingomba Copper Deposit and the Lubambe Copper Mine is transformational, and we see this as a significant step forward to unlocking value for all stakeholders. Importantly, this transaction strengthens Zambia’s position as a stable, investment-friendly jurisdiction with more than 100 years of mining history.”
About The Copper Deposit
The Mingomba Deposit, named after a nearby stream and an indigenous spoonbill bird and formerly known as the “Lubambe Extension Project,” is located in the Republic of Zambia’s Chililabombwe District, in the heart of the Central African Copperbelt. Exploration of the Mingomba Deposit to date has defined a mineral resource of 247 million tonnes of ore with an average grade of 3.64% copper (9 million tonnes contained copper). Some regions of the orebody have grades of 5% or more.
The average grade of global copper deposits under development is 0.39% (meaning for every 1,000 kilograms of rock mined, 3.9 kilograms will be copper). Higher-grade deposits, like Mingomba, are more productive, profitable, environmentally sustainable, and produce less waste than lower-grade deposits because less rock is extracted for each unit of metal produced.
The Mingomba Deposit could ultimately prove to be larger than initially thought. Exploration efforts have not yet determined where the mineral resource ends in multiple directions, leaving open the possibility of significantly expanding the mineral resource.
About the Joint Venture
KoBold is investing $150 million and will own a majority stake in the Mingomba Deposit. A new entity, Mingomba Mining Limited, will be created to be the license holder. KoBold will have a majority interest alongside joint venture partners EMR Capital and Zambia’s public-private mining company, ZCCM-IH.
KoBold’s AI technology will guide the exploration and development of the Mingomba Deposit: enabling the discovery of even more copper beyond the 9 million tonnes found already, reducing uncertainty about the continuity and quality of the existing resource, and building the investment case for turning this mineral resource into a new mine.
KoBold’s investment will also benefit Lubambe Copper Mine, a copper mine adjacent to Mingomba that has been operating since 2012. Lubambe Copper Mine will continue to be owned by EMR Capital as operator and majority owner and ZCCM-IH as a minority partner, with Zambia National Commercial Bank (“Zanaco”) as a financing partner. Capital from KoBold’s investment will help enable a debt restructuring with existing lenders and fund payments to contractors, suppliers, and creditors.
The Global Challenge
Replacing all gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles is a critical need to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change. However, building the batteries for these vehicles requires discovering more than $15 trillion of new nickel, copper, cobalt, and lithium sources—an increase in demand of up to 40x over the next 20 years.
Today, the mineral exploration industry is spending more money to make fewer discoveries. This is because ore deposits at or near-surface level have, to a great extent, been discovered. However, the remaining ore deposits are deeper underground and harder to see from the surface.
Discovering new, ethically sourced deposits of critical battery minerals requires the ability to peer into the Earth’s subsurface in innovative ways. KoBold designed its technology to pick up faint signals in the data pointing to hidden ore deposits below.
How KoBold Works
KoBold is focused on accelerating the discovery and responsible development of new battery metal deposits worldwide by combining AI technology with extensive data collection and human geologic know-how.
KoBold has developed two proprietary platforms to power discovery: a comprehensive data system, TerraShedSM, and a broad library of predictive models, Machine Prospector®.
TerraShedSM aggregates and structures more than a century’s worth of historical, scientific data from private and public sources worldwide to make it rapidly available for visualization and machine learning. Machine Prospector® interrogates that with a range of techniques—from computer vision to ensemble machine learning—to help identify previously unknown mineral deposits buried deep below the earth’s surface.
KoBold’s models rigorously quantify the uncertainty and guide our decisions about how to explore to most effectively reduce the uncertainty in our knowledge of the subsurface. These insights are generated in real-time during KoBold’s exploration programs and dynamically guide where KoBold’s geologists will survey, sample, drill, and discover.
KoBold has a global portfolio of more than 50 exploration properties on three continents targeting nickel, copper, cobalt, and lithium. Some of these properties are 100%-owned by KoBold, while others are in partnerships with mining majors and junior explorers.
KoBold’s exploration programs are co-led by our geoscientists and data scientists, who develop exploration hypotheses, rigorously quantify the uncertainty in our understanding of the subsurface, and design data collection programs that most effectively reduce uncertainty by drawing upon an extensive suite of proprietary exploration technology. The company’s field results validate and improve the system and have demonstrated material improvements over conventional exploration methods.
KoBold Metals is an AI-driven mineral exploration company created to increase the ethical supply of critical materials, including nickel, cobalt, copper, and lithium, needed to build electric vehicles and renewable energy storage. KoBold’s objective is to be the best in the world at finding new ore deposits by drawing on its world-class expertise in exploration geoscience and full-stack AI software system to guide exploration decisions.
KoBold uses machine learning and other scientific computing methods to guide where to acquire land and how and what data to collect, from sampling to airborne surveying to drilling. KoBold’s portfolio includes 100%-owned properties, majority/operated and minority/non-operated equity positions in joint ventures, and global alliances with major mining companies to use historic and underexploited datasets to generate new exploration opportunities.
KoBold’s technology is used only on projects in which the company owns an interest and is investing in exploration and is not available for license or on a fee-for-service basis. KoBold creates value by discovering new ore deposits and expanding existing resources. The company realizes that value by investing its capital in exploration and owning an interest in the mineral resources discovered.
KoBold, headquartered in Berkeley, California, was founded in 2018 by physicist and McKinsey veteran Josh Goldman, former ConocoPhillips Chief Reservoir Engineer Jeff Jurinak, and entrepreneur and Stanford adjunct professor Kurt House. KoBold is privately held and backed by investors who have committed to supporting the company for the long term, including: institutional asset managers T. Rowe Rice and Canada Pension Plan Investments; technology venture capitalists Andreessen Horowitz, Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures, BOND Capital, Standard Investments, and Sam Altman’s Apollo Projects; and leading natural resources and industrial companies Equinor, BHP, Standard Industries and Mitsubishi.
About EMR Capital
EMR Capital is a specialist resources private equity manager founded by Owen Hegarty and Jason Chang with over 300 years of combined mining operational and investment experience. EMR Capital has owned and operated nine mining operations and projects in 7 countries globally, across four core commodities, with a proven track record in successful mining operations, development, and investment with deep linkages in the Asian and global markets.
ZCCM Investments Holdings PLC is a premier diversified mining investments and operations company. The majority shareholder of ZCCM-IH is the Government of Zambia via the Industrial Development Corporation. ZCCM-IH is publicly traded, with a primary listing under ISIN number ZM0000000037 on the Lusaka Securities Exchange in Zambia and secondary listings on the London Stock Exchange and the Euronext Access Exchange in Paris
ZCCM-IH holds key interests across mining and energy industries in Zambia. It also has significant investments in diversified energy entities, gemstones, and real estate. ZCCM-IH’s portfolio comprises five (5) wholly-owned subsidiaries and fifteen (15) investee companies.
Source: KoBold Metals