The Elements of Innovation Discovered

Seeding a global mining tech hub in Perth

Metal Tech News - April 11, 2024

Rio Tinto invests in tech startups, partners with Founders Factory to help establish Western Australia as Silicon Valley of mining tech.

Global mining company Rio Tinto has teamed up with world-leading venture studio and start-up investor Founders Factory to help establish the city of Perth on Australia's west coast as the Silicon Valley of mining technologies.

As the capital of Western Australia, one of the most productive and diversified mining regions in the world, Perth is already known as being a hub for mining, energy, and technology.

"Technology has always been at the forefront of our industry and Western Australia can be the Silicon Valley of the global mining industry," said Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive Simon Trott.

To further support the development and commercialization of breakthrough mining technologies coming out of Perth, Rio Tinto has partnered with Founders Factory to invest AU$14.4 million (US$9.4 million) in global pre-seed and seed staged start-ups over the next three years.

"We are excited to be partnering with Rio Tinto and launching operations in Western Australia," said Founders Factory CEO Henry Lane.

At the same time, the Western Australian government is partnering with Founders Factory to invest in nature-tech start-ups that preserve and restore nature and biodiversity.

Together, these partnerships will support the first Australian hub of Founders Factory in Australia, boosting innovation credentials of both Western Australia and its capital.

Since 2015, Founders Factory has helped more than 300 startups raise nearly US$1 billion and has established hubs in London, Johannesburg, Milan, Berlin, Bratislava, New York, Singapore, and soon Perth.

"Securing the internationally renowned Founders Factory for Perth is a major coup for our state," said Western Australian Premier Roger Cook. "My government is committed to decarbonizing our economy by 2050 and it's vital that we support local startups developing the technology to reach this goal."

Driving mining innovation

The investments made under the Rio Tinto and Founders Factory partnership will be directed toward mining technologies that improve safety, lower the carbon footprint, enhance mineral exploration and processing, and advance automation.

"Startups can drive further productivity, safety, and automation in the mining sector, whilst accelerating the industry's transition to net zero," said Lane.

Each start-up selected to participate in this program will receive seed money and participate in a four-month accelerator program run by Founders Factory to support product development and commercialization.

"With the backing of industry and the state government, local and international start-ups will receive investment opportunities and access to real-world testing and scaling support, helping Western Australia's innovation economy to grow," said Trott.

Rio Tinto says the breakthrough technologies developed under this partnership supports its own endeavors to find better ways to provide the materials the world needs.

The British-Australian mining company is no stranger to supporting advanced technologies and bringing them to Western Australia.

Copyright © 2024 Rio Tinto

In 2019, Rio Tinto launched AutoHaul, the world's first automated heavy-haul rail network, to transport iron ore from its mines in the Pilbara region to ports in Western Australia. Roughly 80% of the mining haul truck fleet across the company's Pilbara sites is also autonomous.

All the autonomous trucks, trains, and drills at Rio Tinto's mines, ports, and rail systems are operated from the company's state-of-the-art Operations Centre in Perth.

"Our iron ore operations in the Pilbara are among the most technologically advanced in the world," said Trott.

In 2021, Rio Tinto also created its own venture capital fund to invest in technology and start-ups to help solve critical business challenges. Over the past three years, this fund has backed several startups developing technologies for cleantech, hydrogen, battery materials, graphene, carbon capture storage, and more.

Now, its mining tech startup investments will benefit from the expertise of serial entrepreneurs at Founders Factory.

"This exciting new partnership gives us the opportunity to build on our innovative legacy to unlock new technologies and help our business find better ways to provide the materials the world needs," Trott added.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

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With more than 16 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.


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