Changing Minesets: Emily King

23nd November 2021

 

 

Emily King is the Founder of Prospector, a new search engine for the mining industry and is CEO of Global Venture Consulting. She is hosting a bi-weekly podcast called 'On The Rocks', discussing mining insights and innovation

With more than 10 years of experience, Emily is a geologist who worked in emerging, frontier, and post-conflict markets such as Afghanistan, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, and Mexico.

Emily also holds leadership positions at the board level of public, private, and non-profit organizations. These roles include VP of Women in Mining USA, Director of VVC Exploration, Advisory Board of Analog Gold, Fellow at New America, Board Member of World Trade Center Kabul and the Afghanistan Mining Think Tank.

How did you start your career? And how did you decide to study geology in the first place?

I actually thought I wanted to be a physicist when I started my undergrad. I was trying to get into Physics classes, but they were full, so I ended up signing up for ‘Environmental geology 101’. And I fell in love with the coursework. I enjoyed the classes, particularly being outside. And ultimately, geology allowed me to study science outdoors and learn how to put together and tell the stories of places by just looking at rocks.

How did you decide to transition into a digital environment - from geology to the tech-oriented world?

Much later in my career, I have started to use technology as a tool to de-risk mining exploration. At the time, I used to work with clients and partners on de-risking the investments that were made in the mining sector.

So, I saw the power of technology in terms of financial analysis and risk prevention. And lastly, I came across my own challenges with finding data. I figured out I can't be the only person having these challenges with doing the due diligence easily and in a way that made sense for me. I wanted to try and see how I can interpret the data more efficiently and make the results more interactive and easier to read for the users. That led me into becoming a technology entrepreneur by founding the Prospector Portal.

In your opinion, how has the mining industry changed since you’ve started out?

The mining industry proved to be a lot of fun. When I started out I went on a really non-traditional path: running an exploration program in Afghanistan with the Pentagon over several years. But, through it, I got to know a tremendous number of people in the mining industry globally. And I think what kept me in the industry is how fun the people are and how much they love adventure and the idea of building something new in the middle of nowhere that will create jobs.

I don't think that has changed. A lot did, in terms of how we do that work and what it is that our world needs. With time, we have shifted our attention to minerals that are required for different new and vital technologies. It’s the ‘how’ that changed quite a bit, not the ‘why’.

How did you come up with the idea behind Prospector?

I was walking the floor of PDAC with two colleagues, and we were talking about wanting to start a private equity fund focused on metals and the mining industry. We were walking around, getting brochures from everywhere and - of course - we all had our own Excel spreadsheets for keeping track of projects, different investment criteria, risk factors, etc.

And I started thinking that there should be an app that could have all that information, without the need for so much paper being wasted. A lot of work that I would do at the time was trying to find the N43-101 reports for the projects we were analyzing, and I would often have to go on Sedar to find them. I thought: ‘I should be able to go and look for projects of a specific type, or of a specific profile, and look across the world map to see what's out there and to make sure I didn't miss any projects that are a good fit for our criteria'. It was also important that I can search through all these projects quickly.

Bottom line, I really thought that if I'm having this problem there are probably a lot of other people that might have it, too.

Can you tell me more about what Prospector is working on right now?

The big picture of it is how do we make information about the mining industry not just more transparent but more acceptable. So, we started by making N43-101 and, in general, technical disclosure data more accessible. And now, we are moving towards the financial and operational information within the industry, so we can encourage an increase in non-traditional mining investors. We are aiming to provide them with a lower risk image of the industry and give them confidence in the sector and what we are doing.

How do you think the technology that the Prospector Portal is developing will impact the social aspect of mining?

I think the number one tool that we are offering is greater accessibility and communication.

There is a lot of available data regarding mining projects and their consequences (good or bad). Until now, what has not been developed and used in the industry is a tool that would make all information accessible and usable for the local communities and other stakeholders in the industry. The more we can open up and allow people to really see what's going on, you start to act as an agent towards empowering them and their involvement in the process. I think that's the best thing we can offer, on the social side: to facilitate greater involvement of all the stakeholders. By giving them better and accurate information and making it user-friendly, those really important conversations around social licence to operate and accountability would be facilitated, by ultimately giving stakeholders more data to support their arguments in their discussions.

Is technology developing at a relatively similar pace across the sector? Or are some areas seeing an increase, whereas others are seeing a lack of new technological breakthroughs?

The industry has focused a lot more on the modernization of operations. We’ve seen huge strides in the automation of operations on sites, especially using the Internet of Things (IoT), connecting all the data coming from the equipment. There is always a huge amount of investment in the discovery side of the sector, specifically in how you better interpret the geophysics, drilling and sample data. We’ve seen a lot of companies come out in the last five years or so with artificial intelligence-based target identification as their core technology. So, I think we've done a lot in those areas. We are a really technical and science-oriented industry, so the natural inclination has been to use technology in that release science-based part of what we do.

The Prospector Portal team, however, saw a market gap in how to expand participation in mining from a financial and investment perspective.

In your opinion, what is the most exciting emerging technology right now (besides Prospector, of course)?

For me, it’s Big Data. I don’t think the mining industry has gotten to a point where we are using the technology available and used by other industries. But I think we are getting there. And I think we have a whole lot of datasets from really specific niches in the industry that could be integrated into a big datacube and take on some big data challenges.

What is the most exciting thing that you are working on right now?

I am really excited about encouraging young people to come into the industry. And using tools like the Prospector Portal to make the industry more relevant, accessible and interesting to the people. The goal is to bring attention to it and make the younger generation aware and interested in what's going on within the industry.

That is what I am passionate about. I love to talk about it in my role at WIM USA and as the leader of Prospector.

And finally, what is your advice for people coming or switching to a role within mining?

I would say networking is just as important in this sector as it might be in others. And I strongly encourage people to meet and connect with professionals from all sorts of paths and backgrounds. From the outside, the sector doesn’t look really diverse. But once you are in, it is amazing how diverse our workforce and leadership are.

If a new challenge is appealing, then you will definitely find something interesting to do in mining!

Alex Comaniciu

View posts by Alex Comaniciu
Alex is interested in mine automation and design. She is a current Masters student in Mining Engineering at the Camborne School of Mines, UK. And she recently graduated from Jacobs University Bremen, Germany with a degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences. She is passionate about the integration of ESG standards in both upstream and downtream sections of the mining industry. She is the founder of MineCo Robotics as well as co-founder of WIM Germany. Both organizations have sustainability and equality as core values, despite being focused on different mining environments.