Discovering and drilling for the important minerals used for industry and the technology sector remains incredibly important as existing mines are becoming depleted. If the mining industry can’t become more efficient at finding these important deposits, then more unnecessary, harmful drilling and exploration takes place. Applying AI to this problem would seem like a no-brainer for the environment.
Joining this field is now Earth AI, a mineral targeting startup which is using AI to predict the location of new ore bodies far more cheaply, faster and with more precision (it claims) than previous methods.
It has now closed a funding round of “up to” $2.5 million from Gagarin Capital, a VC firm specializing in AI, and Y Combinator, in the latter’s latest cohort announced this week. Previously, Earth AI had raised $1.7 million in two seed rounds from Australian VCs, AirTree Ventures and Blackbird Ventures, as well as angel investors.
The startup uses machine learning techniques on global data, including remote sensing, radiometry, geophysical and geochemical data sets, to learn the data signatures related to industrial metal deposits (from gold, copper and lead to rare earth elements), train a neural network and predict where high-value mineral prospects will be.
In particular, it was used to discover a deposit of Vanadium, which is used to build Vanadium Redox Batteries that are used in large industrial applications. Finding these deposits faster using AI means the planet will thus benefit faster from battery technology.
In 2018, Earth AI field-tested remote unexplored areas and claims to have generated a 50X better success rate than traditional exploration methods, while spending on average $11,000 per prospect discovery. In Australia, for instance, companies often spend several million dollars to arrive at the same result.
Jared Friedman, YCombinator partner, commented in a statement: “The possibility of discovering new mineral deposits with AI is a fascinating and thought-provoking idea. Earth AI has the potential not just to become an incredibly profitable company, but to reduce the cost of the metals we need to build our civilization, and that has huge implications for the world.”
“Earth AI is taking a novel approach to a large and important industry — and that approach is already showing tremendous promise”, Mikhail Taver, partner at Gagarin Capital said.
Earth AI was founded by Roman Teslyuk, a geoscientist with eight years of mineral exploration and academic experience. Prior to starting Earth AI, he was a PhD Candidate at The University of Sydney, Australia and obtained a master’s degree in Geology from Ivan Franko University, Ukraine. “Earth AI has huge ambitions, and this funding round will supercharge us towards reaching our milestones,” he said.
This latest investment from Gagarin Capital joins a line of other AI-based products and services and investments it has made into YC companies, such as Wallarm, Gosu.AI and CureSkin. Gagarin’s exits include MSQRD (acquired by Facebook) and AIMatter (acquired by Google).