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.

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence to Unlock People Power

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 | 9:00am-10:00am | Keynote
Speakers: Stacey Koon, GM, and Lia Walker, Innovation and Operational Improvement, Freeport McMoRan
Session Chair: Ryan Siats, Barr Inc

We are incredibly proud to be part of Freeport-McMoRan, a company long known for great people, excellent operations, and positive impact on our industry and the communities where we operate. We have a strong foundation and a long history of successes to build upon. However, our industry is in flux: On one hand, demand for our products, especially copper, is increasing. On the other, declining grades means it costs more to produce a pound of copper. Building on our powerful legacy, Freeport-McMoRan’s high-performing culture, and innovative, tech-enabled people will set the gold standard for operational excellence and safety in our industry.

Now is the time to create our future. We can secure a sustainable future in the face of change, bring stability to our business, and safely increase our performance when we find smart, efficient ways to do our work. People and collaboration are key: The way we work together is the engine behind our success and people are our most valuable resource. To reach our full potential, we need to better leverage all the abilities and creativity of our people. Technology turbo-charges people power: We make better decisions, improve safety and efficiency and increase production when we use technology and act on data. This dramatically increases our ability to do more with what we have. It also means our people are developing cutting-edge skills.

Our Americas’ Concentrator project demonstrated what happens when people embrace new ideas, technologies and techniques. This project combined the use of advanced analytics and powerful new ways of working that supercharged our people to deliver an entire new concentrator’s worth of additional capacity to the market – without spending billions of dollars in capital to build a new concentrator. Using these new tools and ways of working, we have navigated well through an unprecedented health environment and continue to work in these ways to unlock our full operating potential.

Freeport-McMoRan Inc. has successfully leveraged a data driven innovation philosophy that is built on a unified management strategy, a strong technology foundation, and a collaborative culture. This presentation will highlight our journey from developing a consistent operating system that allowed us to achieve world-class performance to an AI-powered organization with advanced analytics embedded into our business.

About the Speaker:

Stacey Koon, General Manager - Administration

Stacey is General Manager-Administration for Freeport-McMoRan Morenci Operations in southeast Arizona. Stacey joined the company in 1999 in the Human Resources Department where she held various positions of increasing responsibility in the areas of Retirement, HR Compliance and International HR. In 2007, she became Director-Administration in Phoenix where she managed office building construction and leases. This included the Company’s corporate headquarters and other offices in Arizona and South America. In 2013, she relocated to Santiago, Chile where she served as Director-Administration and Human Resources for Freeport-McMoRan South America. In 2015, Stacey accepted her current position where she oversees the company townsite and support functions for Freeport’s largest operation in North America in Morenci, Arizona. Currently, Stacey is on assignment, supporting the Transformation Office of Freeport-McMoRan which is responsible among other things, for driving large-scale initiatives that deliver disproportionate value to the organization. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Northern Arizona University.


Lia Walker, Manager - Innovation, Operational Improvement

Lia Walker is the Manager-Innovation, Operational Improvement for Freeport-McMoRan Inc., a premier international mining company with headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona. She is the business leader for integrating data-driven innovation and technology transformation throughout Freeport-McMoRan Inc. Under her leadership, highly engaged business teams leverage agile and change management techniques to deploy technology and data science solutions that amplify business growth and profitability. Lia has 27 years of experience in the mining industry and has functioned in various roles throughout her career. She holds a Master of Science degree and multiple patents, received numerous certifications, including a Master Black Belt, Statistician & Data Scientist and is a dynamic and accomplished Agile coach. Passionate about People + Digital Solutions + AI.

2020 & 2021, Challenging Years for the Iron Ore Industry

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 | 9:00am-10:00am | Keynote
Serge Perrearult and Guy Saucier, ASDR

Since June 2017, the price of iron ore at 62% CFR has experienced sustained growth marked by a peak in July 2019 at 120US$/t, then a drop to 78 US$/t in February 2020, to finally peak at 174US$/t in early March 2021. Canadian iron ore miners (Rio Tinto - IOC, ArcelorMittal Mines Canada, Quebec Iron Ore & Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation) had to manage a sharp slowdown in production between mid-March and mid-April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase in iron ore prices and premiums on iron ore pellets since April 2020 will have been favorable to the North American iron ore producers. In this presentation we will review the market of the iron ore worldwide, the wealth of the USA and Canada iron ore industry and the forecast for the next two years.

About the Speaker:

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree (1982) and a master’s degree in geology (1987) from the University of Montreal, Serge Perreault has been active in geological research and mineral exploration for nearly 30 years. Serge Perreault worked for 17 years at the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources between 1991 and 2008. In October 2008, Serge joined SOQUEM as a senior geologist, held the position of principal geoscientist until his retirement at the end of March and was appointed Acting Director-General of SOQUEM between March 2020 and January 2021. Serge is a member of the Order of Geologists of Quebec and the CIM. He is one of the cofounder of the North American Iron Ore Symposium.

Building Brain-Friendly Workplaces

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 | 10:45am
Dr. Erika Garms, CEO, WorkingSmarts, Inc.

The mining industry faces twists and turns, conflict and uncertainty. Professionals in the field are required to be able to stay sharp and calm in the midst of these factors, and to maintain strong stakeholder relationships despite diverging perspectives and value sets. Learn a handful of brain-friendly ideas for keeping performance and morale high in the workplace. De-mystify why others act the way they do and how to approach them in such a way that engages them, not riles them up. Learn about your pre-frontal cortex and how it likes to operate best in order to increase focus, concentration, and performance even when emotions may be running high. Hear why communication ‘misses’ are so common and what is needed for better understanding and less conflict. Discover why the change management strategies of decades past are due for a major overhaul, given how the brain responds to threats in the workplace and how to introduce change so that it will be accepted and championed. This session is lively, fun, memorable, applicable for both work and personal lives.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Erika Garms, CEO, WorkingSmarts, Inc.

Dr. Erika Garms helps bright leaders and teams work, manage, and innovate smarter. She uses her gift for translating powerful scientific theory to everyday workplace practice, to shape healthier and higher-performing organizations. Garms is the author of, “The Brain-Friendly Workplace: Five Big Ideas from Neuroscience That Address Organizational Challenges”. She speaks regularly at conferences, company meetings, and management retreats and is a professional member of the National Speakers Association and past Dean of the NSA Speakers Academy.

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