By STUART LISULO
US-based company KoBold Metals has held a groundbreaking ceremony at its Mingomba Deposit exploration site located in Chililabombwe District.
The unveiling follows the company’s recently announced $150 million investment to acquire the controlling stake in the newly-created Mingomba mining license.
KoBold’s investment closed last March, and there are now five drill rigs operating on-site at Mingomba, with company officials describing the results of the drilling campaign thus far as “highly encouraging.”
The Silicon Valley-based company has embarked on an aggressive exploration programme of the Mingomba Deposit, which it hopes to subsequently develop into a world-class mine.
So far, KoBold’s investment has resulted in the creation of over 200 jobs since mineral exploration commenced earlier this year.
The company uses Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) to discover critical minerals for the electric vehicle and renewable energy revolution, including copper, among others.
During the groundbreaking ceremony at the site in Chililabombwe recently, KoBold Metals co-Founder and President Josh Goldman said that part of the company’s goal was to find metals needed to “electrify the global economy.”
“Our job at KoBold is to find the metals to electrify the world economy: copper, cobalt, nickel, and lithium. And to do that, at the scale required to avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to invent technology to accelerate discovery. We use Artificial Intelligence to help us find ore deposits that everyone had missed until now.
“Our geoscientists and technologists are working together to discover the deposits that will become the next generation of mines. We succeed at our business by hiring the best people and by inventing breakthrough technology to make us more successful explorers,” Goldman said.
He added that for the business to succeed, KoBold needed to invest in the countries that offered the best opportunities.
“And when we look at the whole world for places to invest, Zambia rises to the top. Zambia is a safe and peaceful place where we can hire exceptional people; where we can operate in ways that protect the environment and support local communities; and where the Government supports our investment with actions that are fair, transparent, and fast.”
KoBold Metals Zambia Chief Executive Officer Mfikeyi Makayi, Zambia’s first-ever female CEO to lead a mineral exploration company, said KoBold planned to develop the mineral deposits to the highest standards.
“We are exploring the Mingomba deposit, and our plan is to explore it, define it, and develop it. We want to do every step in that process the right way, according to the highest standards. And we want to do every step faster than anyone else can. Right now, as we are gathered here, five diamond drilling rigs are drilling exploration holes into the Mingomba deposit.
“Because we have the right equipment and the right teams, those rigs are drilling 1,500 metres below the surface. And they are doing it fast. We drill almost 1000 meters a week,” Makayi said.
“We will drill dozens of holes to understand the deposit. We will learn about how the ore is distributed deep underground and the structures that control its grade and thickness. We will learn about the properties of the ore to be mined and test the process for recovering metals from the ore.”
And commenting on the scale of KoBold’s investment at Mingomba, President Hakainde Hichilema’s Special Assistant for Economic and Development Affairs Jito Kayumba hailed the project’s use of A.I. in mineral exploration as an industry first.
“We are excited at the fact that this is the first time Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is being deployed in the mining sector from an exploration standpoint. Essentially, it means that the level of efficiency in discoveries is elevated, and the manner in which the mine design is structured is also elevated so optimization is key,” Kayumba said in response to a question on KoBold’s technological innovation.
Reacting to the same question following a tour of the drilling site, United States Ambassador to Zambia, Michael Gonzales said. “I think this is world-class and cutting-edge. This is using the latest technology, creativity and innovation that America has long been known for, and putting it to use in one of the foundations of the Zambian economy that this country has long been known for. What I am seeing in terms of KoBold’s speed, transparency and commitment and communication with the community is world-class; it’s exactly what the Zambian people deserve and should expect, and KoBold’s delivering.”
The Mingomba Deposit is named after a nearby stream and an indigenous spoonbill bird. It was formerly known as the Lubambe Extension Project.
Earlier exploration of the Mingomba Deposit defined a mineral resource of 247 million tonnes of ore with an average grade of 3.64 per cent copper (nine million tonnes contained copper).
Some regions of the orebody had grades of five per cent or more.
The average grade of global copper deposits under development was 0.39 per cent (meaning for every 1000 kilogrammes of rock mined, 3.9 kilogrammes will be copper).
Higher-grade deposits, like Mingomba, were considered more economically productive and environmentally sustainable, producing less waste than lower-grade deposits because less rock was extracted for each unit of metal produced.
The Mingomba Deposit could ultimately prove to be larger than currently estimated.
Exploration efforts had not yet determined where the mineral resource ended, leaving open the possibility of significantly expanding the mineral resource.
KoBold invested US $150 million to acquire the majority stake in the Mingomba Deposit, which it operates through Mingomba Mining Limited, the new license holder.
The company has a majority interest alongside joint venture partners EMR Capital and ZCCM-IH.
KoBold acquired its majority stake in the Mingomba Deposit from the owners of the Lubambe Copper Mine, EMR Capital, and ZCCM-IH.
The shareholders of Lubambe Copper Mine Limited remain EMR Capital and ZCCM-IH.
The Mingomba Deposit lies on a new mining license held by Mingomba Mining Ltd, whose shareholders are KoBold, EMR Capital, and ZCCM-IH.
KoBold company officials stated they believed it would take at least eight years to develop the Mingomba Deposit into an operating mine and require significant additional investments.
The project is the most advanced among several in its exploration portfolio in Zambia.