Meet Our Expert Speakers

The SME Minnesota Conference is proud to present speakers who are experts in their respective fields with a focus on industry developments, trends and innovations specific to the Midwest.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023 | 8:30 am – 9:30 am
Ethics Course

Powering Our Future In An Ethical Way

Julie Lucas, Executive Director, MiningMinnesota

As our nation moves from a fossil-fuel dependent economy to a minerals-dependent economy, we must ask ourselves how we can make this transition in an ethical manner that respects the resource, the land, the water, and the people. Our country must also ensure that this transition provides secure, resilient, and affordable energy for its citizens. Minnesota has an abundance of the metals that are required to power our future clean economy and in this session, we will evaluate the ethical considerations that must be made as our country determines its path forward and our state's potential role within it.
*1 PDH will be awarded for this talk. You must sign the form onsite to receive your PDH certificate.



Tuesday, April 18, 2023 | 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Opening Plenary

The LKAB Transformation – The Future of CO2-Free Iron

Tristan Jones, Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB

Sweden is consistently ranked near the top of any list of the world’s most environmentally–friendly countries. It has a native population that still uses reindeer herding as its primary means of supporting itself. As a people, the Swedes have a clear view of how they feel the world should be, and an expectation that others will not impinge upon their rights. They enforce this vision with strong regulation and some of the highest carbon taxes in the entire world. It is in this socio–political climate that Luossavaara Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB) owns and operates both of the world’s highest producing underground iron mines, the Kiruna mine and the Malmberget mine, which use a highly mechanized and automated version of sublevel caving to extract around 42 Mtpy of high-grade run–of–mine ore. The company also operates an 8–10 Mtpy surface mine named Svappavaara. In this mining environment, the cornerstone to LKAB’s strategy for the future is a switch to CO2-free iron production. It requires a vast investment in the future of the company, not only through capital construction and preparation, but through fundamental research and development. It requires new mines operating at depths of up to 6200 ft (1900 m), at production rates higher than ever before. It requires a new processing methodology based on hydrogen and green electricity. It requires an entirely new way of looking at the business of iron ore. This presentation discusses how LKAB’s switch to CO2–free iron will totally transform the company, the business, and lead to a general transformation of all of northern Europe.

ValdezTristan has a PhD in mining engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla and degrees in geology and GIS. He has worked in underground lead, coal and iron mines in the public and private sectors of the mining industry, as well as in academia. Since 2014, he has been living and working in Sweden, and started working for LKAB in 2017. He is currently a specialist mining engineer leading several projects related to the strategic planning of LKAB’s mining operations, including expanding the Ki runa and Malmberget mines, taking the Svappavaara surface mine underground for the first time, and opening a new greenfield project called Per Geijer.



Wednesday, April 19, 2023 | 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Closing Plenary

Mine to Market – Expanding, Securing, and Supporting the Domestic Energy Supply Chain

Zack Valdez, Chief of Staff, Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains, Department of Energy

Demonstration and deployment of advanced energy technologies under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) promote late-stage technology projects and programs that support industry stakeholders interested in a clean, secure, and sustainable domestic energy supply chain. BIL and IRA have changed the structure of DOE and integrated with Administrative priorities to focus 40% of investments to energy justice and disadvantaged communities. The Manufacturing & Energy Supply Chain (MESC) office at DOE will discuss funding opportunities to analyze, assess, and execute projects throughout the energy supply chain – with the goal to bring quality jobs, manufacturing technology, and sustainable energy back to America.

Prior to joining the Manufacturing Energy Supply Chain Office as Chief of Staff, Zack Valdez developed strategy for the Office of Advanced Manufacturing within the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. Dr. Valdez has extensive experience in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math engagement with national non-profits, academia, and industry. He is also an alumni of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology Policy Fellowship, where he served on the U.S. Senate Energy and National Resources Committee. Zack conducted research in multiple geoscience arenas while earning his Ph.D. from Baylor University and Engineering and Physics B.S. degrees from St. Mary’s University.


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