An artificial intelligence startup backed by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos has teamed up with the world’s second-largest mining group to hunt for metals used in electric vehicles.
KoBold Metals and BHP will together search for lithium, nickel, cobalt, and copper in Australia, KoBold CEO Kurt House told Insider in an interview.
KoBold and BHP’s three-year partnership could help to source the nickel that gets used in Tesla vehicles, House said.
In July, BHP signed a deal with Tesla to provide nickel for the carmaker’s electric batteries.
“It could very well be that if we make nickel and cobalt discoveries together, those supplies will end up being a part of that agreement,” House said. “We could easily contribute to it in the future.
“Tesla is awesome. No question about it. They’re the market leader in electric vehicles,” House said, adding that KoBold’s goal was to help the entire electric vehicle (EV) industry.
KoBold, a privately-owned mineral exploration company based in Silicon Valley, uses artificial intelligence to collect data on where to drill for raw materials used in EVs.
House didn’t give an exact figure for how much the companies were likely to spend on the project, but said they’ll be shelling out tens of millions of dollars over the next two years.
Exploration will kick off in western Australia, covering half a million square kilometers of land, House said.
The companies chose Australia because the country is well endowed with the right materials needed for EVs, and it has high labor and environmental standards, House said.
“We can basically guarantee that any discoveries we make there will be developed in an ethically and environmentally sound way,” he said.
One of the principal investors in KoBold is Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate and technology fund financed by Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Bloomberg founder Michael Bloomberg, according to KoBold.
House said that Gates and Bezos had influence over the EV metals search but said he couldn’t reveal how much money Gates’ fund had invested in the project.
Other KoBold investors include Andreessen Horowitz, the prominent Silicon Valley VC firm, and Norwegian state-owned energy company Equinor.
In August, KoBold said it would spend $15 million hunting for EV materials in Greenland alongside mining firm Bluejay.