UBC-founded carbon startup moves into the next stage of its development as Arca

The company formerly known as Carbin Minerals is making strides in CO2 mineralization.


The company formerly known as Carbin Minerals is making strides in CO2 mineralization

There’s a moment in the lives of many endeavours where they have to make the transition from academia to the market. For Carbin Minerals, as with many of its peers, that point was decades in the making.  

Greg Dipple, a geology professor at UBC for 30 years, has been working to understand the geochemistry of carbon mineralization since the early 2000s. Eventually, he and fellow UBC researchers Bethany Ladd and Peter Scheuermann figured out a way to capture and store CO2 permanently by speeding up the natural process of carbon mineralization.  

In layman’s terms, the company removes excess CO2 from the atmosphere and transforms it into rocks, storing it for generations to come. 

As the company officially launched at the end of 2021, it caught the attention of Paul Needham, an entrepreneur in residence at UBC who has a history of founding successful energy startups. He came on in April as the CEO and, earlier this year, when the company found itself at the precipice of commercialization, he steered a name change. “We have this moment right now where we’re transitioning from being an academic organization to being a commercial player—that’s significant, we wanted to mark that,” says Needham over a Zoom call.  


Currently, Arca has 11 mining companies it’s working with (none of which has announced its participation yet, but “will be issuing press releases in time,” according to Needham). He notes that the name itself comes from the Latin word for a chest or a storage box. “That’s really what we’re focused on, capturing and storing something precious, it’s just in the wrong place right now. It needs to be back in the ground, so that’s where we’re putting it.” 

Arca and its team of 10 won a $1 million XPrize from the Musk Foundation in June 2022 and scored an equity investment from the billionaire asset manager Jeremy Grantham’s Grantham Foundation. Needham adds that Arca will be looking to raise more capital later this year on what he calls a “very ambitious growth trajectory.” 

Asked whether other companies are currently taking a similar carbon dioxide removal approach to Arca’s, Needham posits that he doesn’t know of any. “There are many different strategies from trees to algae to kelp,” he says. “We are the only one I know of that is providing the technology and service package to mining companies globally so they can produce carbon neutral metals—critical metals for the clean energy transition.” 

In five years, predicts Neeham, Arca is “going to be the partner of choice to the global mining industry. When companies like Tesla or BMW or GM think, We need sustainable nickel and sustainable critical metals in our EVs, they’re going to see that the mining companies are partnering with Arca.”