BHP to use AI exploration tools in partnership with Silicon Valley firm

BHP is set to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) tools into its exploration inventory after striking a deal with KoBold Metals – a start up backed by a coalition of billionaires including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.

The Silicon Valley firm, which has pledged to create a ‘Google maps’ of the earth’s crust, and BHP will jointly fund and operate exploration using data processing technology to help predict the location of ‘future-facing’ metals such as cobalt, nickel and copper.

Algorithms applied to the data collected determine the geological patterns that indicate a potential deposit, with the technology able to locate resources that may have eluded more traditionally-minded geologists, according to KoBold.

“Globally, shallow ore deposits have largely been discovered, and remaining resources are likely deeper underground and harder to see from the surface,” said BHP’s vice president of its metals exploration division Keenan Jennings.

“This alliance will combine historical data, artificial intelligence, and geoscience expertise to uncover what has previously been hidden.” The joint venture will initially focus on exploration in Western Australia.

KoBold, although not a mine operator, began exploring for battery metals last year after acquiring rights to a 1,000 square km2 area in Northern Québec, just South of Glencore’s Raglan nickel mine.

The company now has about a dozen exploration properties in places such as Zambia, Québec, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Western Australia, which have resulted from joint ventures like the one with BHP.