BHP invests in Gates and Friedland-backed firm I-ROX SAS

Crushing and grinding mined rock into small particles to extract valuable metals and minerals consumes more than 4% of the world’s electricity. (Stock image.)

BHP (ASX: BHP) has joined billionaire Robert Friedland’s I-Pulse Inc. and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a clean-tech venture backed by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, to speed up technologies that can help the mining sector save on energy.

I-Pulse and Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV)-Europe launched earlier this year a company named I-Rox, a France-based firm focused on demonstrating a pulsed-power technology said to reduce the amount of energy needed to crush rock.

The value of BHP’s equity investments in I-Pulse and I-Rox wasn’t disclosed, but the world’s largest miner will join I-Pulse and BEV Europe as shareholders of I-ROX, the firms said.

I-Rox uses high-voltage pulses of power to disintegrate rock, an approach that has been trialled in laboratories for years but has yet to be applied in commercial mining operations.

The agreements not only give BHP access to the new technology, but it also makes it an active partner in I-Pulse and BEV Europe’s quest to identify new applications for pulsed-power technology in a mining context.

Crushing and grinding mined rock into small particles to extract valuable metals and minerals consumes more than 4% of the world’s electricity and are a major source of miners’ direct emissions.

“BHP’s investment and our collaboration offer a meaningful step forward in the development and commercialization of I-Pulse technologies for the mining industry,” Friedland, chairman of I-Pulse said in the statement. “Particularly in relation to the prospect of the crushing and grinding of rocks for a fraction of today’s energy consumption, environmental impact and costs.”

I-Pulse has developed several applications of its pulsed-power technology, including solutions for geological exploration, finding water and manufacturing.

BHP chief executive Mike Henry said the collaboration with I-Pulse and I-Rox will contribute to the company’s growing portfolio of options with potential to both improve competitiveness of and help decarbonize its operations.

The Melbourne, Australia-based mining giant also has a 5.5% stake in Ivanhoe Electric, another Friedland-founded miner with copper projects in Arizona, Utah and Montana, along with a battery storage business. 

Before listing in New York in June this year, Ivanhoe Electric was a unit of I-Pulse.

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