Earlier this year, I-Pulse and Breakthrough Energy Ventures-Europe (BEV-E) established I-ROX, which is focused on demonstrating that short, high-intensity bursts of energy delivered using pulsed-power technology can quickly and efficiently shatter rock. Developers believe this process, which targets a tensile weakness in rock formations, could substantially reduce the time and energy required for mining and processing ore.
I-Pulse was co-founded by mining magnate Robert Friedland and Laurent Frescaline, an electrical engineer who has devoted his career to developing pulsed-power for commercial applications. Friedland also founded Ivanhoe Mines, hence the “I” in I-Pulse. BEV-E is an investment firm seeking to finance, launch, and scale companies that will eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They believe the use of pulsed-power technology could significantly reduced the GHG emissions associated with mining and mineral processing.
The world’s largest mining company, BHP, has now thrown its hat into the ring. This week, BHP entered into a collaboration agreement with I-ROX under which the companies will work together to seek to accelerate the development of I-ROX’s technology and business. BHP has also made an equity investment in I-ROX, joining I-Pulse and BEV-E as shareholders.
BHP has also made an equity investment in, and entered into a collaborative agreement with I-Pulse to identify new applications for pulsed-power technology for mining. Within the mining context, pulsed-power technology is currently deployed by I-Pulse’s former subsidiary, Ivanhoe Electric Inc., in mineral exploration via its proprietary Typhoon system. Further opportunities to develop and commercialize pulsed-power-based applications include drilling, tunnel boring, blasting and explosives replacement.
“I-Pulse technologies offer transformational improvement potential in so many aspects of life,” Friedland said. “Pulsed power could enable significant energy savings in mining and manufacturing, as well as opportunities in relation to geothermal energy. The Typhoon system is being applied to precisely locate ore bodies and groundwater.”
These collaboration efforts will link the mining and processing expertise of BHP with the pulsed-power technology and expertise of I-Pulse and I-ROX, in an effort to transform multiple aspects of mining with the potential for economic and environmental upside. This includes materially reducing GHG emissions associated with rock crushing.
“The collaboration with I-Pulse and I-ROX will contribute to our growing portfolio of options with the potential to both improve the competitiveness of and help decarbonize our current business, and also to unlock new growth opportunities beyond those available today,” BHP CEO Mike Henry said. “We are excited by the opportunity to work more closely with I-Pulse and I-ROX and bring our own expertise to the relationship to together develop these solutions.”
BHP’s investment, which was not disclosed, could offer a meaningful step forward in the development and commercialization of I-Pulse technologies for the mining industry. In relation to crushing and grinding, Friedland believes that pulsed power can achieve better results for a fraction of today’s costs.