Miners have been struggling to meet the demand for global copper supply for years, with the threat of a copper shortage on the horizon. However, Jetti Resources, a small US startup, may have the answer to extracting stranded copper deposits, after a discovery that led to breakthrough technology.
The startup’s solution could mean the supply of copper will finally be sufficient for the metal to be used to its full potential. It could become a bigger player in building infrastructure industries and the automotive sector and could be harnessed to feed power grids.
Jetti’s technology has not yet been tried on a large scale, but has been operating at a mine in Pinto Valley, Arizona. It has already attracted big investors – some of the leading players in the mining industry – who see its value and potential.
Just what is this new technology?
Jetti’s invention is a specialised chemical catalyst that is able to break through a common type of sulfide copper ore that is presently too difficult and expensive to extract copper from.
The ore in question holds copper trapped behind a thin film layer, and it is so hard to get through to the copper that there are many copper reserves that have been so far untapped, as well as large amounts of copper in ore accumulating in piles of surface mine waste for decades.
The chemical catalyst process Jetti has developed activates rock-eating microbes that disrupt the layer and free the copper within the ore.
This process makes it far easier and makes more economic sense to recover copper from these types of sulfide ores than the current ore refining process, especially as these ores contain so little copper content.
Jetti created the catalyst with the University of British Columbia.
Pulling in powerful investors
The startup has already attracted the world’s largest mining conglomerate, BHP Group, to buy stakes in it, which is looking to make a deal to test out the technology at its Escondida copper mine in Chile.
Another investor is Freeport-McRoRan Inc., who has been using the catalyst at a mine in Arizona over the course of 2022.
Jetti most recently raised $2.5 billion in funding from investors, a sign of big things to come for the startup, particularly as it is still small.
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