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First Mode gets $8.5M boost from mining partnership

Seattle-based First Mode says it’s partnering with the global mining company Anglo American in a multi-year joint development deal that includes an $8.5 million investment in First Mode.

The newly announced deal builds on the engineering company’s previous work on a hydrogen fuel-cell power plant for Anglo American’s monster ore-hauling truck.

Anglo American is one of the world’s largest mining companies, with a portfolio that includes platinum-group metals, copper and iron ore, and diamond mines. Its operations are spread out from South Africa to Western Australia.

Mining isn’t exactly an environmentally friendly industry, but Anglo American is pursuing an initiative called FutureSmart Mining that’s aimed at reducing its environmental footprint. The hydrogen-powered vehicle that First Mode is working on could become one of the largest zero-emissions vehicles on Earth.

First Mode was founded in 2018 by veterans of Planetary Resources, an asteroid mining venture that fizzled out. Much of First Mode’s work has to do with supporting space projects such as NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars and the Psyche mission to a metal-rich asteroid. But the partnership with Anglo American signals that First Mode is serious about addressing earthly engineering challenges as well.

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First Mode strikes $13.5M deal for mining tech

Mine haul truck
An ultra-class haul truck carries tons of ore. (Anglo American Photo)

First Mode, a Seattle engineering firm founded by veterans of the Planetary Resources asteroid mining venture, says it’ll be working on innovations for the earthly mining industry under the terms of a three-year, $13.5 million agreement with Anglo American.

The deal demonstrates that First Mode is branching out from space applications, a year after it was founded.

The company has been providing design, engineering and system development services for projects including NASA’s next Mars rover, the Psyche mission to an iron-rich asteroid, the Europa Clipper spacecraft and a proposed moon rover — but Anglo American, one of the world’s largest mining companies, is its first announced client for terrestrial technologies.

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