top of page

With global mining on track, GeologicAI is keeping pace with a fleet of AI-powered robot geologists

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

a woman geologist looks at data
Image Credit: GeologicAI

As the World Bank Group lays out in its 2020 report on Climate Smart Mining, in order to meet the growing demand for clean energy technologies by 2050, the production of critical minerals must increase by nearly 500%.

With a $20 million Series A investment, Canadian startup, GeologicAI is deploying a fleet of artificial intelligence-powered robot geologists to make sure that happens, accelerating resource exploration and extraction to meet the planet's increasing demand for critical minerals.

As the International Energy Agency’s first annual market review of the critical minerals space shows, we are on the road to meeting that demand. In a rare case of climate optimism, the Agency concluded that new mining projects may be enough to meet government climate targets.

While consultants and analysts have long warned of looming shortages due to skyrocketing demand for key minerals like lithium, cobalt, and graphite, essential for everything from solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal power, to electric vehicle batteries, energy storage, and other clean energy technologies, the IEA estimates that due to surges in investment, the supply of minerals critical to the energy transition could move close to levels needed to support climate pledges by 2030.

It’s an atypical moment of good news from the IEA, but the report stresses the need for improving sustainable and responsible mining practices not only for the security of supply chains but for the benefit of the Earth, from which these minerals come. That’s where startups like GeologicAI come in.

Using a combo of high-resolution imaging and XRF hyperspectral scanning tools to analyze rock samples, the robot geologists, as the startup calls them, identify resources hidden beneath the Earth's surface. Its flagship scanner can scan 650 meters of core a day.

That’s over 710 yards or nearly 55 Olympic swimming pools' worth of data that is collected a day. This sample data is then analyzed by advanced machine vision and AI and is uploaded instantaneously online to any geologist that wants to use it.

According to the startup, this is much faster than traditional core logging methods, and cuts out the tedious work, freeing up human geologists to do what they do best: expertly interpret the data.

These “AI-enhanced digital rock twins,” as the startup calls it, are just one tool it provides for more environmentally conscious resource discovery and extraction. Founded in 2013, the company says its tech allows it to produce the most extensive geological dataset in the industry.

visualization of geologic software
Image Credit: GeologicAI

“Without sufficient quantities of key minerals like copper, nickel, cobalt, and lithium, the transition to a clean energy economy simply cannot happen,” Carmichael Roberts, of Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which supplied the funding, said in a statement.

“GeologicAI’s multi-sensor core scanning robots and AI-assisted analysis are a powerful combination, and we believe their technology will significantly accelerate key mineral discovery and recovery.”

The reason reaching our mining goals is within reach is, according to the IEA, because of a rise in newly financed projects. GeololgicAI says it's already working with some of the world’s leading mining and exploration companies to tackle some of these projects, establishing its global footprint.

Based out of Calgary, Alberta, the startup’s tech is currently used in projects across Canada, the United States, and South America, but with the funding it plans to deploy in Australia, Northern Europe, and the Middle East in the coming year, the company’s chief strategy officer Yannai Segal told the publication BetaKit.

“We believe that improved geological understanding is the point of maximum benefit for a more efficient, environmental, and economical mining industry, and that multi-sensor machine vision is the best way to better understand rocks,” he said.

And the team behind GeolgicAI isn’t the only one who believes this.

EarthAI, based out of San Mateo, California, is also striving to increase the success rate of mineral discovery while eliminating the environmental impact of metal extraction through minimally invasive equipment and processes, all with the power of AI.

Through AI-powered mapping, EarthAI offers mining companies analyses, field testing, and drill-ready exploration projects using AI to find economically viable sites. As the startup reports, this enables 50% cheaper drilling with significantly reduced environmental disturbance.

While Earth is in its name, the startup also reports plans to utilize its process to discover metal deposits on other planets, moons, and asteroids.

According to the IEA’s market analysis, investment in critical minerals production jumped 30% last year to $41 billion, having gained 20% in 2021. Critical minerals startups are benefiting, raising $1.6 billion in 2022, up 160% from the previous year. Still, the Paris-based energy watchdog notes that delays and cost overruns for projects continue to pose a risk to the upbeat scenario.

Finding deposits of critical metals is an extremely challenging scientific problem, EarthAI details on its website. Despite the world spending $10 billion annually on exploration, current success rates are on the decline as more sites are drilled. Currently, EarthAI says that the success rate is less than 0.5%.

That’s why using AI to cut out potential cost sinks of mining in sparse areas is key to maintaining the international investment in mining and the return companies are seeing, providing them an incentive to continue fueling the clean energy transition.

“At a pivotal moment for clean energy transitions worldwide, we are encouraged by the rapid growth in the market for critical minerals, which are crucial for the world to achieve its energy and climate goals,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.

“Even so, major challenges remain. Much more needs to be done to ensure supply chains for critical minerals are secure and sustainable.”

If startups like GeologicAI and EarthAI have anything to say about it, the answer to those challenges may be robots.

bottom of page