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Ideon unearths $16M for minerals discovery tech

A businessman digging a trench in the shape of a dollar sign

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

A Vancouver startup has raised a $16 million Series A for its subsurface imaging technology, which it says will speed up the mining process for critical minerals.

Why it matters: The global energy transition is driving near-insatiable demand for minerals such as lithium and nickel and the mining operations that will be needed to unearth them.

  • Ideon Technologies is among the growing number of software companies aiming to make those mining activities more efficient and less impactful on the environment.

Details: Playground Global, a Palo Alto-based VC, led the round.

State of play: From EV batteries to wind turbine blades, the energy transition will demand a 500% increase in the global supply of critical minerals by 2050, per the World Bank Group.

  • The U.S. Defense Department, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, has launched a competition for AI services that can rapidly map 50 such minerals.

Yes, but: Companies can't simply begin strip-mining swaths of the U.S. — they're also under intense pressure to mitigate impacts on nearby communities and ecosystems.

How it works: Ideon says its technology can provide "x-ray-like visibility" more than a half-mile beneath the Earth's surface — namely, by using "cosmic-ray muons" that are "generated by supernova explosions in space." Neat.

What they're saying: "The industry still uses 150-year-old technology: core drilling. It’s a needle-in-the-haystack approach," co-founder Gary Agnew tells Axios. "They were making $1 billion decisions with less than 1% of the volume mined."

  • Ideon, he says, makes the exploration process more accurate and efficient.

Of note: The company is working with mining majors BHP and Glencore.

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