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December 5, 2019 Jeremy Boren

Rio Tinto $1.5B Copper Mine Expansion, Amazon Goes Quantum, Duolingo Tops $1B

Electric Vehicle Production Sends Demand for Copper Surging

Leading global mining group Rio Tinto Plc announced this week it’s spending $1.5 billion to expand the Kennecott copper mine in Utah.

It’s a massive investment, even by mining standards.

Reuters reports it will single-handedly more than double recent investments in the U.S. copper mining industry, which is being fueled by the rise of electric and hybrid vehicles, which tend to have copper-hungry motors and battery components.

Kennecott Copper Mine – Rio Tinto

According to the Copper Development Association Inc. and Mining Technology Magazine, a typical EV can have nine times as much copper as a conventional vehicle.

  • Conventional cars contain roughly 20 to 50 lbs of copper;
  • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) typically contain 85 lbs;
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) use about 130 lbs;
  • Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) contain more than 180 lbs.

“We like copper. We like the U.S.,” Rio Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said in an interview, Reuters reports. “If we had not taken this decision, our position in the U.S. market would be shrinking.”

The Kennecott mine is responsible for about 20 percent of U.S. copper production. The investment will extend its life until at least 2032, an perhaps beyond.

Amazon Offers Quantum Computer Beta Test to Cloud Customers


Amazon this week debuted Amazon Braket, a beta-test-phase quantum cloud computing solution for customers that want to “explore the technology’s potential,” WSJ reports.

Even though it’s still an emerging technology, Amazon has plenty of company in the quantum computing universe already.

IBM, Google and Microsoft have all announced quantum computing programs.

According to WSJ, “Boeing Co. said it plans to collaborate with AWS in exploring potential applications for quantum computing, including how the technology could potentially speed up materials-science research and how it could secure communications.”

The company also announced it will establish the AWS Center for Quantum Computing at Caltech.

For a refresher about what quantum computing is all about, check out Amazon’s blog post.

As for the possibilities?

“Quantum computers have applications to machine learning, linear algebra, chemistry, cryptography, simulations of physics, search, and optimization,” to name a few, at least.

Duolingo Officially a Unicorn


A new $30 million Series F funding round from Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has made Duolingo the first Pittsburgh-based startup to reach a venture capital investment value beyond $1 billion.

CNBC reports the language-learning company’s value is now $1.5 billion.

It has raised $138 million, “including from existing investors such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Union Square Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Drive Capital, Ashton Kutcher and Tim Ferriss.”

“Pittsburgh’s tech industry has grown significantly over the past several years, and I am proud that Duolingo’s roots are here,” Duolingo CEO and co-founder Luis von Ahn told CNBC. “I hope this milestone is something that Pittsburgh is proud of, too, as a symbol of this city’s renewal and resurgence as a great place to start a business and a great place to live in.”

Duolingo plans to use the latest $30 million funding round to increase its marketing efforts (the company has historically relied on organic growth), increase its workforce from about 200 employees to 300 employees and support its new Duolingo English Test.

The test allows those learning English to demonstrate their proficiency via a $49 test available on Duolingo’s website.

Results can be shared with universities, colleges and other institutions of higher-learning (nearly 500 have signed on so far) showing a “certified proficiency score, video interview, and writing sample” that’s available within 48 hours.

Going Mobile at Bonita Springs Utilities

Check out GrayMatter’s latest ProjectX customer story about Bonita Springs Utilities, which is working with GrayMatter and GE Digital to put near real-time operational data in the hands of their operators.

What began as a project to eliminate cumbersome, paper-based procedures has grown into a digital transformation strategy for the award-winning utility in one of the fastest-growing regions of Florida.

Check out the full Bonita Springs story here.

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Jeremy Boren

Jeremy is GrayMatter's Brand Manager and the author of TechHub and the emPOWERUP Podcast. He writes about digital solutions, trends and culture in the world of operational technology. Jeremy's background is in daily journalism. He has a passion for storytelling and enjoys highlighting the technologies and professionals taking on complex challenges in manufacturing, energy, cybersecurity and infrastructure.