By Jack Farchy
(Bloomberg) — KoBold Metals, the startup using artificial intelligence to hunt for battery metals, has discovered several prospective lithium deposits, marking a shift from its initial focus on cobalt. The San Francisco Bay Area-based company, which is backed by a roster of high-profile investors, has discovered deposits of lithium in South Korea, Australia, Namibia, Quebec, and Nevada, Chief Executive Officer Kurt House said in an interview.
“The easy things have not been found in lithium,” House said, emphasizing the newness of an industry that is being transformed by demand for batteries in electric vehicles.“Nobody has ever looked for it before. People have been looking for copper for millennia and nickel for centuries.”
Unlike cobalt, lithium is not especially rare, and rising demand in recent years has spurred a wave of new projects from Australia to Zimbabwe. House said he was unconcerned about a slump in prices this year, arguing that high-quality deposits would be well placed whatever the market dynamic.“Lithium does require the largest total growth of any of the commodities we’re talking about,” he said. “There will be plenty of times of market shortage.” The company is already developing a copper deposit in Zambia, where House said it had discovered “incredible amounts of super high-grade copper.”
KoBold has raised about $500 million from investors, with its most recent round of fundraising this summer valuing it at just over $1.1 billion, he said. Its largest shareholders include T. Rowe Price Group Inc., Bond Capital, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Equinor ASA, Standard Industries, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Michael Bloomberg, the majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, is an investor in Breakthrough, according to the company’s website.