Earth AI, led by Roman Teslyuk, SensOre, led by Richard Taylor, and OreFox, led by Warwick Anderson, have taken similar approaches, but have concentrated on Australia, which has particularly rich public geological records.
Verai, led by Yair Frastai, focuses on the western bits of North and South America, home to eight of the world’s ten biggest copper mines.
Dr House is especially proud of his AI’s ability to predict the shapes and distributions of subterranean plutonic intrusions.
These are bodies of igneous rock, often ore-bearing, that have risen as liquid magma from Earth’s interior but solidified before they reached the surface.
They can be detected from the surface via magnetic anomalies which suggest that a particular group of rocks formed at a different time from its surroundings, a standard practice in the industry.
But KoBold’s AI is able to make more accurate predictions of the shapes of these intrusions, and so suggest the most effective places to drill.
And with success.
Last year, KoBold announced its discovery of a rich deposit of chalcocite, a sulphide of copper, in Zambia.
Earth AI, meanwhile, has to its credit a big find of molybdenum (an important component of specialist steels) in New South Wales.
Verai has found ore containing copper, gold and silver in Chile and Peru.
SensOre has found a large source of lithium in Western Australia.
And OreFox’s technology has turned up a potential gold mine in Victoria, plus several promising copper prospects.
Rio Tinto is building what Russell Eley, its head of exploration data science, calls a “virtual core shed”.
This will bring together details of the many rock-core samples the firm has collected over the years.
Software will then search these for patterns that will assist the interpretation of new cores, and tell geologists the best places to drill next.
Dr House observes that 99% of exploration projects fail to turn into actual mines.
AI therefore has plenty of room to improve things.
It may also help with a more subtle problem.
By greatly expanding the volume of rock which can be searched, it will enable new strikes in familiar, well-governed countries, lessening the need to rely on what Mr Taylor diplomatically calls “exotic jurisdictions” for future supplies.