First Mode and Anglo American close agreement for zero emissions mining

First Mode and Anglo American close agreement for zero emissions mining

Hydrogen powered haul truck
A two-megawatt hydrogen power plant, designed and built by First Mode in Seattle, is installed on this Anglo American haul truck at its platinum mine in Mogalakwena, South Africa, creating the world’s largest zero-emissions vehicle. (First mode photo)

Seattle-based First Mode and Anglo American have closed a complicated $1.5 billion transaction that will transform First Mode into a clean energy company for heavy industry and relocate its headquarters to London.

Anglo American, a global mining company, is now the majority shareholder in First Mode. The change in status was reflected in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which reported a $1.184 billion share offering sold to Anglo American. That comes on top of a $200 million cash injection that Anglo American is providing, First Mode spokeswoman Colleen Rubart told GeekWire in an email.

Rubart said the balance of the $1.5 billion comes from contributions of intellectual property, contracts, facilities and other assets from both parties involved in the deal. The deal closed on January 5, he said.

The business combination, which was announced last year, combines First Mode’s engineering operation with Anglo American’s nuGen effort to develop a zero-emission system for transporting ore. First Mode created the hydrogen-fueled hybrid engine for Anglo American’s nuGen mining truck, which made its debut in South Africa last year as the world’s largest zero-emissions vehicle.

In the future, First Mode will supply nuGen systems to Anglo American. The project will include the modernization of around 400 ultra-class transport trucks with the First Mode engine, as well as the provision of infrastructure for hydrogen production, refueling and battery recharging.

Julian Soles, Anglo American’s director of technology development, has taken over as chief executive of First Mode at the company’s new London headquarters. Meanwhile, Chris Voorhees, who had been president and CEO of First Mode, has moved to the role of chief product and technology officer in Seattle.

First Mode will maintain production facilities in Seattle and operate a zero-emission truck proving ground and associated infrastructure in Centralia, Washington. The additional capital will also support global staffing targets and allow First Mode to expand its corporate presence in Perth, Australia.

The company started in 2018 as an employee-owned engineering company, formed by veterans of an asteroid mining company called Planetary Resources. First Mode was initially focused on providing expertise for space projects such as NASA’s Perseverance rover mission and the Psyche mission to a metal-rich asteroid. But in 2019, the company began to build an increasingly close relationship with Anglo American.

The SEC filing reported that nearly $6.7 million of the gross proceeds of the transaction were received by First Mode’s executive officers and directors from the sale of shares, in connection with a concurrent public offering “in which all active employees had right to participate”.

On its reworked website, First Mode says its work for the mining industry is just the start of a broader campaign to phase out diesel use in heavy industry and speed up the transition to clean energy.

“We are progressing outward from the core, taking over the supply chain (heavy rail and mining) and then outward again, closer and closer to the people who depend on these resources every day,” says First Mode. “In the end, we plan to bring the same benefit to everyone in the world: a better world powered by better energy.”

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