KoBold is a well-funded upstart in Africa mining that has secured rights to Zambia's Mingoba deposit which was first discovered in 1979 by Anglo American. Anglo and a handful of other miners subsequently passed on exploiting the deposit deeming it uneconomical. KoBold has raised nearly $400 million, across three funds, and from a handful of notable celebrity investors and large mining houses. Its claim to fame, apart from its celebrity funders, is that it uses AI to find resources not already known to the established miners. But in this case, the deposit is well-known and documented. We'll keep watching to see what the Silicon Valley upstart has up its sleeve on this one.
In a strategic move to expedite the development of a groundbreaking copper mine in Zambia, California-based KoBold Metals, backed by influential figures like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, is contemplating partners to develop a copper mine in Zambia.
The mine is the Mingomba deposit which contains copper grades of about 5% making it one of the densest copper mines in Africa, and placing it on par with Ivanhoe's Kakula deposit in the DRC. If true, the ore body would make Mingomba the highest grade copper discovery in Zambia in 100 years.
Mfikeyi Makayi, CEO of KoBold Metals Africa, disclosed that mine development activities, including shaft sinking, may commence ahead of schedule around 2027.
While the Zambian mine project could necessitate an estimated $2 billion investment, KoBold anticipates potential cost reductions through leveraging existing infrastructure from other operators in the region with which it has previously partnered or received investment.
"Mine development activities, including shaft sinking, may commence around 2027," says Mfikeyi Makayi, the CEO for KoBold Metals Africa.
KoBold is a Silicon Valley startup that claims to make use of artificial intelligence to identify minerals prime for exploitation with a focus on copper, cobalt, nickel, and lithium. It has raised a total of $392 million across three rounds including a Series A of $20 million in 2018, a Series B of $172 million in 2022, and its last round was for $200 million in 2023.
Its financial backing comes largely from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate and technology fund with support from notable backers such as Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg, Ray Dalio, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos. It was founded in 2016 by Bill Gates to secure access to critical minerals. It has reportedly raised over $2 billion across multiple funds and made around 100 investments in the renewable energy, energy storage, food and agriculture, recycling, and transportation sectors. BHP, Rio Tinto, Sumitomo, and Glencore have also invested.
The deposit is well-known and was first discovered in 1979 by Anglo American who decided to sell the concession deeming it uneconomical based on copper prices at the time. In 2004, Australian miner Equinox Minerals bought the concession but also decided to pass on exploiting the deposit. In 2018, KoBold acquired the project and has breathed new life into the project giving hope to Zambians that the resource will finally be dug up.
KoBold claims that it uses AI to help it identify unknown minerals, but this one is already known and well-documented. It's not clear what value the firm is adding that other miners with deeper track records don't. Copper prices might just be rising at the right time making the project feasible no matter who held the concession. Or they may be in a rush to show results leading up to a planned IPO in the next three to four years which the firm is exploring according to Josh Goldman, co-founder and president of KoBold.
For Greek history enthusiasts, Kobolds were believed to be small spritely creatures associated with Dionysus, the god of wine, ecstasy, and nature. The words "goblin" and "hobgoblin" are derivatives of the name Kobold and the myth survived primarily through German folklore. Kobolds were thought to be invisible but could materialize in a variety of human and non-human forms. They often lived and worked in mines and were believed to resemble what we think of today as dwarves, goblins, and trolls. The mischievous spirits were blamed for many troubles miners faced including stealing ore, sabotaging equipment, and making life difficult generally for miners while underground.