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Bill Gates-backed Kobold Metals to gain another major investor

By Lawrence Gash

Norwegian state energy firm Equinor plans to take a stake in San Francisco-based start-up

Equinor, the Norwegian state-backed energy company, is planning to take a stake in a disruptive mining start-up which already counts Bill Gates as an investor.

The San Francisco-based Kobold Metals was founded less than two years ago and aims to digitally map the Earth’s crust.

Details as to exact size of Equinor’s investment are currently unclear. However, the company is expected to have a stake just below 10 per cent.

News of the Norwegian firm’s interest in Kobold will surprise some. Whereas Equinor focuses on oil and natural gas, Kobold is devoted to uncovering new deposits of cobalt. The company collects multiple data streams from old drill reports and the latest satellite imagery and analyses them using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Equinor hopes to transfer this technological cutting edge to the discovery of new oil and gas sources. Lisa Rebora, senior vice-president of exploration at the firm, observed that: “Data science and analytics applied to big subsurface data will be increasingly important for low-carbon and low-cost oil and gas discoveries.”

She added: "Partnerships with companies like Kobold Metals will provide us with valuable insights and application of new techniques to the overall exploration process.”

With the Norwegian government issuing a record number of oil and gas exploration licences in 2019, Equinor might feel that such is a necessity to stay competitive.

Cobalt, meanwhile, is essential in the production of electric car batteries. With over 60 per cent of the world’s cobalt currently found in the unstable Democratic Republic of Congo it is unsurprising that Kobold Metals quickly received investment from both Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund as well as the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

The start-up's chief executive Kurt House stated recently: “Our technology is in many respects commodity independent. The database can be applied to any commodity.”

FURTHER READING: Europe's top oil and gas exporter invests to cut emissions

FURTHER READING: Volvo Cars to use blockchain traceability of cobalt used in electric car batteries

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