Sunday, November 25, 2007

$10,000,000 Silver Extraction Prize

The KEI Policy Blog notes that, as the New York Times reported, Barrick Gold is offering a $10M Prize to a team that can help it find a way to extract significantly more silver from its Veladero gold and silver mine that it currently has been getting. The solution needs to be economical for this mine and environmentally friendly.

This link describes why such a low percentage of the mined silver has been successfully extracted so far, and what techniques have been tried so far to solve the problem.

The actual process that the competitors would go through includes an earlier judging phase to ensure that proposals are credible, and a phase where qualifying research efforts would be funded. As such, this is a combination of traditional research grant and innovation prize, just as the DARPA Urban Challenge is. The $10M prize would be awarded when a solution has been implemented at the mine at production scale.

It's interesting to see the prize model used by private industry trying to solve real-world commercial problems. Prizes have their place in private industry, government, and non-profits.