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Rio Tinto ramps up mining startup investing

Illustration of Benjamin Franklin wearing a miner's helmet with the light on.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Rio Tinto is mining deeper for tech startups.

Why it matters: The move comes as miners seek new and efficient ways to meet demand for a crop of minerals that feed the energy transition.

Driving the news: Rio Tinto is partnering with VC firm Founders Factory to invest around $10 million into industry startups.

Zoom in: The partnership will focus on early-stage startups that can help mining operations automate, decarbonize, and run more safely and efficiently.

  • Startups backed by the group will receive cash and go through a 4-month accelerator program, run by Founders Factory.

Catch up quick: Rio Tinto launched a dedicated VC fund in 2021 that backed companies like thermal battery maker Rondo Energy, battery materials company Nano One, and VC firm Evok Innovations.

Zoom out: The mining giant isn't alone in its tech interest.

  • Fortescue is also an active investor in startups and was the lead investor in one of Electric Hydrogen's rounds.

The bottom line: Mining is an unavoidably dirty sector and has long been plagued by environmental issues. New technologies could help mining companies explore, mine and process minerals more cleanly.

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