Rio Tinto targets mining tech start-ups

Staff reporter

'We are excited to be partnering with Rio Tinto and launching operations in Western Australia'

“Western Australia can be the Silicon Valley of the global mining industry,” Rio Tinto Iron Ore boss Simon Trott said at this week’s announcement of new Rio funding for tech start-ups.

The mining major is partnering with London-based Founders Factory to invest A$14.4 million (US$9.5 million) in pre-seed and seed-stage start-ups over three years.

It said their focus would be mine safety, decarbonisation, exploration and automation technologies.

Start-ups would receive a cash investment and access to a four-month accelerator program run by Founders Factory to support product development and commercialisation.

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

“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.”

Rio Tinto launched a dedicated venture capital fund in 2021 and last year partnered with cleantech fund Evok Innovations to back development of critical energy transition technologies across North America. The company said its Founders Factory venture would be complementary.

Founders Factory’s extension of its global office network to Perth, Western Australia, has also coincided with a A$7.2 million injection of funding from the state’s government, said to be aimed at local nature and biodiversity start-ups.

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

“Start-ups can drive further productivity, safety and automation in the mining sector, whilst accelerating the industry’s transition to net zero.

“This program can help international and local founders test their technologies with the global leader in the sector and find pathways to commercial scale and impact.”


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