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Women in Mining Spotlight: Annelie Lundström

On the theme of highlighting women’s talent and contributions to the industry, and identifying role models for future generations, sat down with Annelie Lundström, chief alliance officer at Veracio, an AI and advanced analytics solutions company.  

Lundström was CEO of Minalyze, a drill core scanning technology company for mining and exploration, which Veracio acquired last year as Boart Longyear spun out its geological data services division. Veracio aims to fast-track global orebody knowledge through enhanced data analysis and AI.

Growing up in a working class family in a “very” small town in the countryside in Sweden, Lundström dreamed of being a flight attendant and spent a fair amount of time in airplanes. After high school, she started a business as a hairdresser, which she ran for almost 10 years, and while the profession provided a good education in dealing with clients, she knew it was not one she wanted to pursue for life. 

Lundström went on to study industrial engineering and management in an undergraduate degree at Chalmers University of Technology in her home country and then in entrepreneurship at the master’s level before co-founding Minalyze. In February, Lundström was named a finalist in the 2024 EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards in the Swedish National final. 

She shared some career highlights and industry insights in this exclusive interview.

MDC: What led you to a career in mining?

Lundström: At Chalmers at the masters level, we actually got to work on real projects. Some of my classmates got a patent portfolio from ABB that the ABB didn’t know what to do with and got to work on some research that researchers at the university had worked on to see if they could commercialize and actually build something out of that.

I happened to know a Swedish drilling company at the time – this is back in 2009 – and they had issues standing still with the drill rigs because of  their clients and the geologists at the exploration companies, they couldn’t decide where to continue the drilling because they were waiting for the lab assays. And at that time, they experienced between 6 and 12 months waiting time. 

The drilling company said to me, ‘hey, could you help us develop something that could give us fast answers out in the field?’

I worked on that project [with] my colleague, and we didn’t have any background in mining. He has a bachelor in mechanical engineering and my bachelor is in industrial engineering and management.

But we took on that challenge and we realized that we need to go out and talk to real people in the industry, so we went up north in Sweden and Finland to meet as many geologists and people active in the mining space as possible.

We also learned that there’s so much subjectivity to select which samples that you sent to the laboratory. We heard that with different geologies you would select different samples and you would also do the decision making differently from day to day.

We also discovered that you invest so much in extracting the drill core – so why wouldn’t you unlock all the information you have in front of you? That triggered the start of developing the core scanner metalizer – we see it today as Minalyze. We founded  Minalyze at the university and then we showed the industry the product concept we developed and some initial results. Clients told us, ‘wow, this would be revolutionary for the industry’. 

We came from [an] engineering background and we thought ‘no, this is not impossible.’ We just took another approach, and step-by-step we built the technology and the company. We developed a very robust core scanner designed to be able to scan drill core directly in core trays — and everyone that’s worked with drill core and core traces knows that they’re always different. They’re all unique and that’s the big challenge.

We applied the LIDAR into the system, so the LIDAR gives us a 3D representation of the core and the tray. And when we have that different presentation, then we can position any sensor and follow the core and thereby get really high quality results. That is also what we patented and how we approached what people said was impossible back in the day.

When we started, we thought the technology would be the hard part, but it’s actually changing people’s behavior and getting people to adopt new technology that’s been the biggest challenge.

MDC: How can AI revolutionize the mining industry?

Lundström: We work with AI because we have high quality data and quite a lot, and it’s data that we know exactly how it was collected and that’s the perfect foundation for doing AI applications. We try to solve problems, not just use the buzzword ‘AI’, because that’s a hot topic in every industry. What we do with AI is, for example, combining the output from them in  the true scanner and combining the images with the higher solution chemistry and thereby we can produce or generate faster work that would normally take about two weeks to do manually. 

We can do it in just a couple of seconds, so that’s one way we can apply AI. It [has] massive potential to change things in this industry, but it must start with collecting high quality data. 

MDC: How have you seen the industry change or evolve?  

Lundström: It’s changed a lot when it comes to adopting technology. In the early days when we presented our technology, we had to explain what XRF was and everyone knows that now. It’s the X-ray fluorescence technology that generates the chemistry. It’s an old technology, but the way we apply it is new, but we had to explain what the technology was and what you could get from it.

Then it was the 2nd wave where we had to explain – why should you do scanning? That is something that I noticed in the last 3-4 years that people understand the value of collecting data. We have core libraries around the world with millions of meters of core that have not been analyzed.

Being a woman in this industry, I’ve also noticed that it was quite lonely 15 years ago, but now at conferences and in meeting rooms, there are a lot of women and I like that because the mining industry is a very exciting industry to be working in. I hope more women make the move to participate in this industry.

MDC: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities for women in this industry?

Lundström:  I don’t, at least in Sweden, see any big challenges. But in some parts of the world where you have to fly in-fly out, that could potentially be of course a challenge to be a mom and have a family and and have to fly in-fly out.

The good thing is that I seldom reflect that I am a woman in the mining industry and I think that’s a good sign that I’ve always felt very welcomed. I have never felt different compared to others. 

MDC: What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about the mining industry?

Lundström:  [During] development people couldn’t understand why we were focusing on the mining industry. [They thought] the mining industry is dirty and and we don’t need it and everything we need we can get from recycling, but thankfully people are understanding. I noticed some changes here in Sweden, at least, that people are starting to understand that we need mines, which they did not understand before.

In countries where the economy is more built upon mining, I think people are more aware of the need for mines, but in Sweden, it’s been seen as something ugly about that we don’t need. But that has changed.

Source: MINING.COM – Read More