TTT014 AI-assisted mine prospecting - Emily King - Prospector Portal
4:54PM Feb 18, 2021
We were driving dune buggies on and off of helicopters on the Afghan border with Iran looking for lithium. Like, you can't make this stuff up. You know, it was a lot of fun, frankly.
Welcome to Tough Tech Today with Meyen and Miller. This is the premier show featuring trailblazers who are building technologies today to solve tomorrow's toughest challenges.
Welcome to this episode of tough tech today. Today, we are lucky to have Emily King, a global mining expert. Emily is the founder of Prospector Portal. It's an AI enabled and institutional quality investor tool that helps investors find and fund mining assets. She is also the CEO and founder of Global Venture Consulting, and has some amazing stories to tell. Emily, thanks for coming on the show.
Yeah, thanks so much for having me, guys. I'm excited
Today, I think we want to dig in a little bit about your exciting mixture of backgrounds, both exploring geology, exploring technology with your new AI company, as well as how you ended up in this interesting mixture of technology, and mining, to where you're leading this new company. So I guess my first question for you is, tell us a little bit about how you ended up founding prospector portal. And you don't have to give me your whole life story, we'll definitely dig into it, but where did you get the idea for your current venture?
Yeah, the origin story. You have to prospector was born out of a problem that I was having with several of my colleagues. Two years ago, at the world's largest mining conference, which is called the PDAC - the prospectors and developers association of Canada - I was walking the floor of the mining conference with two of my colleagues and we were talking about starting a private equity group actually, to focus on mining. And as we were walking the floor of this show the mining industry, still markets investments in a very old school way - you pick up paper brochures, you look at posters, with, with maps printed on them - and we were finding that for us to compare and contrast each of our interests, different commodities, different geographies, we were open to, we had to physically pick up paper brochures and do a lot of googling, create our own Excel spreadsheets, that then several other folks...trying to collaborate with people of different ages and different expertises was challenging. And so I said, this is crazy, most of what we work with are these public disclosure reports called 43-101's, and they are standard. And I said this seems like a problem that is just made for artificial intelligence. And I didn't know much about AI at the time, but I said, if I'm having this problem, I'm not the smartest person out there, I'm not the most creative, I'm sure other people are having this issue too, of wanting to search through all of these mining projects globally, and be able to find and compare and contrast them in an easy way with their colleagues. And that's what led me to start Prospector.
That's a fascinating story. But then why mining? Take us back step or two before, what is the role of this in your life, because it looks super impactful.
Yeah, I've been working in emerging and frontier markets for my whole mining career. My mining career really began in Afghanistan, and since then, I've continued to work in Central Asia, as well as North Africa and increasingly so now in Central and South America. And what I've found is that in working in the mining industry, the more you can de-risk any project, the more effective it will be, and the more successful you'll be. So, you know, mining, for me is exciting for a bunch of different reasons. But this platform is transformative because it allows people to de-risk their mining investment, their due diligence and their deal flow from home in a way that before you really needed a team of consultants to be able to go through these documents and find things that are a fit for your investment portfolio. So it really, in a way allows an active investor - maybe a high net worth individual, a family office to look at mining, where before it would have been technically way too challenging or intimidating, maybe to even dip their toe in the pool. So for me, that's why I was working in the mining industry. I'm passionate about the industry. I'm passionate about getting non traditional investment into mining, talking about mining and geology in a different way. So that we can encourage technology investors impact investors to make that transition, in the same way that bacon is like the transition meat for vegetarians coming back to meat, I want prospector to be the bacon of converting investors over to the mining industry, we're easy and you can get familiar with it and like the industry through us.
Can you talk a little bit about the AI that that powers prospector portal - is it a transition thing for people to get into it - I don't know if people would be kind of nervous about AI, or how does it help me as an investor?
Yeah, we're very careful about how we use artificial intelligence and machine learning in Prospector. We empower the platform to help the user find information faster and more efficiently and more accurately, but it never replaces decision making in the process. So these documents that are referred to, 43-101's, can run hundreds and hundreds of pages long, and they're full of technical information, when oftentimes a person is interested in "show me all the gold deposits in Mexico that have a certain level of risk", right? That's the question that you want to ask the system. So we use AI to pull that list back for you. And we allow the AI to bring you to the exact paragraph in the document that talks about the question that you asked. So we're using natural language processing to do that function. But we don't use AI in any way in that concept to recommend anything, or push any asset towards you that doesn't show up in the natural language processing and in the search function of the platform. So we're really careful about that. Sometimes people think AI is having machines make decisions for you. And in this case, the machine helps you get the data you're asking for. Later this month, we're rolling out a predictive analytics tool for the whole country of Mexico, that will allow our subscribers to look across the whole country of Mexico, and see where areas of interest are the best fit for what we call a deposit model. So if you're looking for gold, there are different kinds of gold deposits, and you could use our AI tool called a target map to see where a gold deposit that's a fit for you is most likely to occur. But again, we're not promoting an investment, or doing anything like that. We're just helping you get to the data faster.
So the target map, does it have like an interface like Google Earth, where all the golds at?
Yeah, absolutely. And it shows you also overlaid on top of that, where there are active mines, and if those mines are publicly traded, whether they have these technical documents, 43-101's and you can read the documents, and it also overlays on top of that mineral concession data. So if there's an area you're interested in, based off of the predictive analytics and the technical information, you can see if somebody already owns that property, and if so who is it? Or is it not under lease, it may be something that you as an investor would want to look at.
It sounds like a great use of some of the modern technologies that are becoming more commercial off the shelf and applying it to an underserved industry. I have a contextual question, and it's in terms of...tell us the important role of mining for modern society. Some folks...I've been at mining conferences where folks say that we just break rocks. But there's a fundamental importance to the breaking of rocks. For example, as a setup I had for the outro for our prior episode, telling our guests that Emily King would be our next guest and held up an iPhone and said that there's a world of minerals inside this smart device. Could you elaborate on why mining is such a foundation of our modern world?
Yeah, I mean, in a simple phrase, we always say if you can't grow it, you have to mine it. Everything in the world, if it's not grown is made out of something that's mined. And I think in America, in particular, we're a bit disconnected from that. We aren't as aware of where things come from because of the global supply chain. But it is critical. Everything from your car, to your phone to your computer, to the fertilizer that goes on the things that we grow and eat comes from mines. And it's increasingly important as we move towards a low carbon economy, which seems contradictory to a lot of people, they think mining and they think dirtying the environment, they think bad for the planet. But in order for us to do things like have electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines, those things are all made out of metal. And the electricity that's generated and stored is moved along metal wire and stored in batteries that are made out of metals. So it's contradictory in a lot of people's minds, but the more we want an environmentally friendly future and a low carbon future and to electrify the developing world, the more we're going to have to mine, so it's really important that we mine in a responsible way, and it's why I'm so excited about getting people involved in the industry who are focused on those technical problems or technology problems and environmental problems. The best way you can impact the environment around mining is for you to become involved in the industry, because it really will be critical to all of the technology developments and the environmental focus that we're going to have over the next few decades.
You make such an interesting point, about mining being a partnership with moving the world to a greener future. Is there ways that Prospector Portal considers or brings in information about the ecological responsibility of certain projects or investments?
Yeah, there's a section in those technical reports, those 43-101's, that talks about the environmental plan, as well as social and governance issues for the company. These reports oftentimes are only updated every few years. So it's not a live view of what a company is doing from an environmental perspective, but it's a great snapshot in time of what their strategy is. And it's a way to look back and maybe hold that company accountable as to whether or not they did follow the plan that they laid out if they addressed any of the risks that they identified in the report. So that's one way that we allow you, if you're interested in those issues, to compare and contrast those mines or those mining investment opportunities, across that section of the report and look at how different opportunities are addressing those issues. We're also in the process of collaborating with partners in the industry around how do you determine an ESG metric - environmental social governance - is a big topic in the industry, and how do you quantify that? I actually began my career as a supply chain management consultant with IBM - not the norm for geologists, but I'm a big believer that if you can't measure it, it's really hard to improve something and even hold people accountable. So how do we as an industry determine how you measure the environmental, social and governance impacts of a project on an area and whether that company is being successful in being good stewards of that land, is an open question right now for the industry.
I'm kind of curious, how did you go from...so in school you got a BA in political science and government in geology and earth science, and then you ended up working at IBM for a period of time? How did that happen?
Yeah, it was recruited from Bowdoin college by IBM, because at the time IBM's public sector practice - the part of IBM's consulting group that advises the US government - thought they were going to be having a big contract with the Department of the Interior, and they wanted some young, excited new hires, who knew how to use different kinds of software that you use for mapping and geology work. But by the time I started with the company, that project was not going on. And I ended up mapping the repair process of a V-52 engine cabling at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. So that's kind of the nature of going to the big consulting firms, you get to work on a wide range of different projects that may not be directly relevant to your expertise. But again, I was a liberal arts major, so it wasn't too crazy, and I learned a lot on all the projects that I worked on there at IBM. And really, that's how I ended up getting involved back into geology and mining in a roundabout way, I was running a retail banking infrastructure project for IBM for a client at the at the US Pentagon, where we were helping this team at the Pentagon bring private sector banking systems into the Iraqi private banking system. So connecting private banks in Iraq with international banks and all the technology around that - bringing in Visa and MasterCard and ATM and some point of sales to remove cash from what we called "the battlefield" at the time. So the American government didn't have to be paying Iraqi vendors in dollar bills that were flown in from the US to Iraq. And through that project, the client remembered I had a geology degree, and said, "Hey, can you look at some minerals, and Anbar and Kurdistan" - two parts of Iraq - and from there, it evolved and I eventually became a pentagon employee and ran a much larger program in Afghanistan for several years for the Pentagon.
There is a defense thread that has run through your career so far. Could you elaborate on why mining and defense are so commonly together?
Yeah, I think it's more than defense, it's a thread of stability. I was a girl scout growing up, but my dad was an Eagle Scout and really imparted this value to us that you always leave the campsite cleaner than you found it. I think in many cases, historically, the mining industry has not been a stabilizing force in countries economies and their environment and in their social structure. And a lot of times the a lot of countries have battled with the resource curse, or sometimes they call it the the Dutch disease. And I think I really tried - because I've seen what countries look like up close when they're destabilized, and in conflict, I see the opportunity for our industry to bring in stability, if it's done right. And I find that personally really important, because the people who live in those countries are my dear friends and my colleagues. I work in these countries, I work with geologists, and technology companies, and professors. So I know these people personally, and I want to make sure that anything we do in these markets makes their lives better, makes their kids lives better, not worse. So certainly there is a defense aspect to it, especially when we look at why is it important to look at critical minerals, for example, there's a national strategy around having a supply chain that's secure and stable for strategic and critical minerals. But in foreign markets, I'm really passionate about making sure anything we do over there makes tomorrow better than today for the people who live there.
And speaking about making tomorrow better today, I saw that you're a mentor for this program called Peace Through Business in Rwanda. Can you tell me about that, and how you got involved in mentoring people..seems like across the world.
Yeah, I was asked to participate in that program, because they had a young woman who had a gold mining license, and had been running a different kind of business, and she didn't know really how to write a business plan and figure out how to open that business and network with buyers. So it was interesting because it was all done remotely, even before COVID, and we were able to talk a little bit about how gold works as a commodity, and how at a very small scale in a country that did not have a lot of developed commodities, a lot of developed industries - but this woman in particular was new to the industry - how to network her into those and how to get her business up and running. And I think for me, that's really important globally, through that program, through my work with women in mining - in the US and internationally - is creating relationships internationally where people can learn about the business, and network and have somebody to pick up the phone and call when they have a question, because so much of the work of the industry is done internationally. So if you don't have that network, whether you're just starting out, or you've been in the career for 30 years, you're gonna have a hard time.
What kind of changes have you seen, and are you optimistic about mining overall looking on five to 15 plus years? And follow up with, would it react to Elon Musk, The Boring Company? Is underground development, something that we're optimistic about, that it's going to help change the way we develop cities and transit around the world?
I think I'm excited looking ahead to the future, because I think there are more open questions right now than there have been in the last few decades. This whole idea of being a mining futurist, what is the future of the mining industry? And how does mining relate to our future? So all of the things you listed, I mean, it's just fascinating, and as a science fiction fan for my whole life, you know, looking at space mining and deep sea mining, there are things that are so close to being reality now, that have only been written about in books. And you do have folks and teams like Elon Musk and The Boring Company that are making things a reality that have seemed far away for a long time. I think mining and geology have a lot to play in that and that we bring in the existing science. The science around rocks and geology doesn't revolutionize every five years, I mean the science is still really solid. We're always learning more, but there's a lot we can bring to these companies and industries that are trying to do things really different. I was speaking at a panel about space mining over in Europe, and a fundamental question of how does the industry adapt processing? When we process rocks right now you use gravity for a lot of that. How are you going to separate the good stuff from the bad stuff in space, if you don't have gravity, or the same amount of gravity. Really fundamental questions that are new to our industry that we can be a part of are really exciting and positive, because I think anytime we force an industry to think about things completely different then really cool stuffs gonna come out of it.
I like thinking about space mining, because that's my area. And in 10 days, we'll be landing a rover on Mars that will mine the atmosphere - I don't know if that counts is mining - but it's harvesting the resources, C02 to oxygen. It'll also be drilling some holes into the side of rock, so lots of cool geology. I'm kind of interested if there's a way that you're thinking of integrating...it's probably too early right now...but as a futurist, how would you integrate space mining, or probably more relevant now, deep sea mining into what you do at Prospector Portal?
Yeah, I mean it's early, but it's what's fun, so we do it anyway. That's the fun of starting your own company is...
So there are already companies that search the bottom of the ocean right now?
Yeah, there are companies that are really working on deep sea mining, and what they do with deep sea mining, for folks that don't know right now is they're looking at what we call manganese nodules. So these nodules that kind of look like metal balls splayed out across the floor of the ocean, and how do you get them without disturbing that environment is a really important question. What's fascinating about that - I actually talked about it a little bit on a podcast I do on the rocks with Tom Albanese, who's involved in some deep sea mining work and was the former CEO of Rio Tinto, and we were talking about there's actually a lot of crossover between what they're learning with deep sea mining, and what we'll need to do with space mining. Because a lot of the same environmental issues are at play, as well as legal and regulatory, right? Like, who owns the property? How do you monitor all that? There are similar issues in the deep sea space. But yeah, we pay attention to it, we actually have some 43-101 reports on deep sea assets up on Prospector. So if you go on, and you look at our global map of where we have data, and there are dots in the middle of the ocean, that's not an error. Those are real projects that people are already reporting on, and we are looking at from a disclosure standpoint with space mining, how are you going to raise money for space mining? Are you going to do it in the same way that we do with what we now call terrestrial mining? And if so, you've got to be able to quantify how much that assets worth? How do you quantify the value of an asteroid belt? Or the portion of the asteroid belt that you own? You know, in terrestrial mining, you do that with sampling and drilling and you do what we call resource and reserve estimates where different levels of risk, tell the investor here's how much of this metal we think is in this rock? How the heck do you do that with part of an asteroid belt? From a technical perspective, but also from a calculation perspective? And there are people who are actually working on that problem- how would you do it? And again, it comes back, you actually would do it very similar to how you calculate that for a deep sea asset with these manganese nodules, because you basically have rocks spread out across a certain amount of space. So yeah, they're they're fun things to think about for sure.
So a lot of new science, maybe a lot of sampling robots and altering the experiences of the current process.
Yeah. And ultimately, mining is a business, and it will change how the business works, if we have terrestrial mining companies and mining investors working in space. I think that's an open question. It may not be mining companies here that are working out there, it may be space companies that become mining companies, because they're the ones that need the product.
But I would imagine if a clear case can be made - which like you said the prospecting methods are still being developed - the same people that are investing in earth mining, why wouldn't they invest in space mining?
The reason I've heard is because the economics are so different. Where is the market for space mined commodities? It's not really going to be on Earth, or it's going to be really expensive to actually bring rocks and metal back to Earth. So it would price it out of our terrestrial market. You're not gonna mine lithium in space or silicon space, because by the time you bring it down, it's gonna be way more expensive than stuff mined here on Earth. Instead, you're going to be mining things that we need to further explore space, or build colonies in space. So those first of all may be very different minerals and metals than what we need here on Earth,
Like water, for example, you wouldn't use the value on Earth.
Yeah, it's totally different. If you're using water and breaking it down - mining water on asteroids, breaking it down using it for propulsion to get around space, is a totally different value than why we need water here. Same is like silica for for solar panels. Solar panels will be critical for space colonization. So the price of silica or the value of silica in space will likely be very, very different than it is here on Earth. So that's why I think the economic model is so different, and who's gonna pay for it? We certainly have some companies that are leading the way right now with commercial space operations, but will it be NASA who's buying this stuff? Will it be the commercial space companies who are buying it? It's not going to be like we have here probably where you have refineries that are purchasing raw commodities, refining it, and then selling it on. So all that impacts who's investing and who wants to put money up there. What do you think, you follow it a lot?
Yeah, I think we need profitable space refineries that buy all those resources. I think it's definitely going to be government first lead, right. So the government's going to find use cases - very specific use cases - that are advantages for their mission, or even break even for the purpose of developing the technology. Like NASA, just a couple months ago, awarded three contracts for the actual purchase of moon rocks, basically space resources on the moon. So that's the first price point, but once again, the government is the customer. Hopefully, as more governments become spacefaring, that'll expand that customer base beyond just a few super states. So it definitely has a lot of time to mature, but we'll have to see, right? As soon as there's more satellite services beaming down internet, maybe someday it's more profitable to make your satellites in space. But time will tell.
To put some things in a sense of scale ,I understand that like NASA's 16 psyche mission is scheduled to land or operate in 2022. And that this would be investigating an asteroid that is like pure gold, nickel, metallic ions that could be worth estimated 1000s of quadrillions of dollars which is like more money than there is on Earth, in one nice big piece of rock. So for our listeners and our viewers there is tremendous value floating around up in the cosmos. Now it's just the economics - that we're not yet at a position with our human society where we have like - from the movie aliens - like a cosmo freighter that can just move that much mass from A to B, right?
Yeah, absolutely. An interesting parallel almost is the minerals in Afghanistan. I led this effort where we looked at the potential of what we call 'gross in place value' of the known minerals in Afghanistan to different levels of knowledge and risk, but it comes up to like $900 billion worth of minerals is the gross in place calculation of what the USGS had reported. And this was several years ago. But the challenge is, how much does it cost to get that metal out of the ground? So the metal in the ground, if it were totally refined, it's worth a lot of money. But if you have to spend more than that, to get it out and get it to market, then it's not actually worth that in the market. And I think that's the same problem set that we'll have with asteroid mining, is like, okay, but how much would it cost us to get that big net and pull it back to Earth or process it in space. But that's also where I think we look at the minerals and metals in these asteroids, and we think about what we use on Earth. But again, it might be something that's in there that we're not even tracking as important. Look at all the interest right now in rare Earth elements, in lithium and cobalt here on Earth and how critical they are to technology applications that we have now where, even 10 years ago, I was talking about rare earth elements in Afghanistan - rare earth deposit in central Helmand Province - and everyone looked at me like what the heck's a rare earth element? And now it's all over the news of how China dominates the rare earths market globally. And what impact does that have on all kinds of technology and defense applications? So there may be crazy stuff out there that we don't even know that we need. And that's part of the fun too, is what else is in there? And what can we do with it?
Yeah, there's definitely a lot of excitement for the future, and for futurists.
Is there a risk to the mining industry or perhaps an opportunity that there's more interest, excitement and skepticism toward moving to cryptocurrencies from traditional fiat currencies. Like I understand that the US dollar and plenty of other currencies have moved off the gold standard, and for quite some time, and we still have gold mining as a very important industry. What could be the implications as more cryptocurrencies become an alternative to say the US dollar as a global basis?
I think there are different thoughts within the industry on that topic. There is a part of the industry that's been very welcoming to...I would say crypto but more so blockchain, which are connected in a lot of ways. Blockchain is incredibly useful if you're trying to document and validate supply chains from markets that don't have a lot of control. We know a company called Cobalt Blockchain, for example, which the Canadian government approved to raise money, where they're the first company to document cobalt coming out of the Congo, all the way through the supply chain to the consumer, so you know exactly where that cobalt came from. And you can alleviate concerns about child labor, or conflict mining issues, right. Cryptos similarly allow you to do cross border transactions, without the impact of maybe countries currencies that fluctuate widely or are not easily convertible. So if you're mining in emerging markets, and you have to pay people or sell things, there's an opportunity there for different cryptocurrencies to be a way to stabilize your pricing and not be at the whim of currencies that aren't very stable or easily traded back and forth. So that's an opportunity, I think there's still a sense in the industry that gold and silver are monetary commodities and not just industrial commodities. And from my experience in emerging markets, I don't think that's going to go away for a while, because, frankly, a lot of the countries I work in, people still pay dowries in solid gold. You try to convince those folks that $100,000 in gold bars or gold jewelry is the same as $100,000 in Bitcoin, I think it's going to be a tough sell. So in that sense, I think there's a lag because mining is global, and it requires a lot of people to get on board to kind of buy into that concept. Those are just some of my thoughts on on the issue.
I think paying dowries in Bitcoin would be the ultimate clash of old vs. new.
I mean, it's just an anecdotal example, but there are even jewelry companies out there too that I know of that market 24 karat jewelry as you can buy this and track how much it's worth as an investment portfolio by the by the value of the gold. I think stuff like that's really cool. So, I don't think gold is gonna go away for a while, even though we don't have the gold standard anymore, because globally, it's still what people want. And it's still what they trust - as crazy as it is, right - it has no intrinsic value in that sense, much like Bitcoin or crypto but it's still what people want.
It's still got a little bit of intrinsic value right? You can make stuff out of it.
That's true, it's still really pretty.
You can't make stuff out of Bitcoin.
Yeah, so that's what I think about it, but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.
Jmill, what thoughts do you have?
I don't know...if you spell 'Doge' backward...'Egod', which is close to gold, which no...but I think that - this is less about a discussion on cryptocurrencies, but those are certainly something that compared against a hard asset - even if it's something as literally flimsy as a paper bill - but that perception of value, that it can be exchanged for something else. And I'd say probably the oldest bartering of way back when eons ago was likely kind of like a rock for a rock type of mentality. So maybe, humans somewhat pliable mindset that maybe, even if we can't quite touch a Bitcoin - at least in the purest form - I rarely touch pure gold, and I know it's valuable. I even nowadays rarely touch physical money, but know that there is utility to it. So maybe the cryptocurrency fleet will just become part of our existing ways, though there is an added benefit on the blockchain idea which I can understand that to have that proof of lineage, that say, a rock, or a precious gem or whatever would, that that's important to be able to trace through the supply chain, where it came from. Was it sourced in a way that was that is copacetic with our modern values? And modern now might be different than modern in 50 years - it will be.
Yeah, and I think the more people are exposed to and see the blockchain, for example, in their day to day life and trust it and understand it, the more acceptable cryptocurrencies will be as well, I think, because I know a lot of really smart people who in crypto kind of first broke in they're like, I've sat through so many webinars about cryptocurrencies and I still don't understand what the heck it is and how it works. So I think there's still this mystique around it that people are like, maybe I'll buy a little bit, but I'm not 100% sure I'm doing it, because everyone tells me I should and it's cool. But I think the more we see applicability of the technology that underlays crypto, and when people can start to trust that and understand it better into their daily lives, I think it'll become more accepted. Who was it that just announced they're accepting Bitcoin? Was it Tesla?
So I think when you start to see that I really can trade Bitcoin in for a Tesla car, then it's legit.
So I want you to take us back to your work in Afghanistan, because I think that - and throughout the Middle East - I think that's kind of interesting to viewers. What was it like actually being on the ground assessing geological assets? I mean, I assume you were walking out there and trying to actually get data from the field. What was that experience like?
Yeah, there's nothing that really compares to it. In a normal mining setting, or a normal work setting, my former boss, Paul Brinkley, once told me working in that environment is like being plugged into a different voltage. It's intense for a variety of reasons. First of all, you're doing a job that nobody's ever done before. You're figuring out big problems and complex problems, and you have a an array of tools that you don't normally get. Here I was working with the US Geological Survey, SRK, Mayer Brown, like really well known companies in the industry, trying to get simple samples out of assets all across Afghanistan. That's not something that you normally do...and had like helicopter contracts and our US military - and in particular, the Special Operations community - working very closely with us to do that. So how often do you go out with a group of Green Berets, or Navy SEALs looking for gold? Right? Like crazy stories...
It's never happened to me!
So there was an intensity to it that was amazing, and it's fascinating geology. You're going out and looking at deposits, you're hiking mountains that have really rarely been looked at from a commercial standpoint and trying to figure out how do you actually develop this asset or convince people to come in and and develop it in a way that will positively impact the future of a country? Because we were there as the Department of Defense, not to go in and make money. We weren't a commercial company going into do this. But how do you do this in a way where you bring in international investment that will stabilize this country's future, create a tax and a royalty revenue base that will allow them to build roads and hospitals and provide security for their people. So they're really big questions at play when you're doing this, but the science has to work, right? You have to find the right rocks, you have to make sure the rocks are something someone's interested in. So there was a lot of pressure but also a huge amount of opportunity there that clarified for me that anytime you go into a market like that, you have to bring that same intensity because in reality, the same things are at play, whether you're doing it in Afghanistan or in Reno. You have to really think about those same big problems. So yeah, it was really, really cool. Like you're flying all kinds of crazy helicopters, we were driving dune buggies on and off of helicopters on the Afghan border with Iran looking for lithium, like, you can't make this stuff up. It was a lot of fun, frankly, and these countries are so different than people think just reading the front page of the newspaper. I mean, the people are wonderful, they're excited that you're there. They want to learn about what you're doing. You work with really, really smart people in these places. People with multiple PhD's that are way smarter than me about geology, that we got to work with. That's across the board, in a lot of these markets, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, I've had the same experience, they're always totally different than you expect.
And when you're out in the field, what are you looking for, like do you actually have a chisel in your hand and you're going up to a wall?
Well yeah, so in Afghanistan, what we did first is we digitized all of these reports that the Soviets had done with the Afghans in the 70's. So before the USSR invaded Afghanistan, they were there as a partner with the Afghan Geological Survey, and they did a lot of survey work all across the country. And they left some of that data behind with the Afghan government. There were some results that only got sent back to what's now called Russia. And so first, what we did is we digitized a ton of that. And then that was thanks to the the real bravery of some Afghan geologists who took these single reports to their home when the Taliban came in, because the Taliban, of course burned any book they could find. So Afghan geologists who worked at the Ministry of Mines and the Geological Survey put their lives at risk to save these paper copies of reports. So we really wanted to honor that and make sure that the value of that data was safe. So that's the first thing we did, we digitized as much as we could, then we translated the reports into English, we took the maps and digitize them into GIS. So we could see where the Afghan and Soviet geologists had found stuff of interest. And then we went out in the field, and we tried to validate it. So we went through a prioritization exercise where we looked at which projects were the most certain to have something of value that the market today would want. And then we went out in the field and we took rock samples, we literally hiked mountains of Afghanistan, looking for gold and copper and rare earths and took our rock hammers with us, and we had to do it all in body armor. So I was in a lot better shape. You were you were hiking with a lot of body armor, and you were really careful about how many samples you wanted to take, because you had to carry it in your backpack back to the helicopter. In a normal mining exploration program, you camp out for months, or you build like a camp site, and you store samples, and you ship them back, we had none of that. I mean, there were some locations where the most we got was like two hours time on target. So here's like this whole mountain that you want to sample as a geologist and you land and you got two hours to get as many rocks as you can and get back in the helicopter. So in that sense, it was very different.
I can't imagine that if you go for a hike with your family now, that you can look at it the same way again.
Yeah, no, it's true. I also I met my husband and fell in love running that program. So Mark, my husband ran most of the security and logistics and all the operations for that. And so we have some some funny memories of him telling me, hey, if you don't get up there to the top of that mountain, the helicopters leaving without you. Hike faster.
What a way to meet and build trust at the same time.
Yeah, no, absolutely. We had some adventures together doing that, that certainly you remember for a lifetime.
How do you explain this to your five year old, what you do?
You know, what's amazing about working with Mark - I still work with Mark - we work together and we take Madeline with us. So she's actually been to Trey Soros, which is the gold mine that Analog Gold is operating, that I started by being on the advisory board of and now Analog Gold acquired Prospector, so I'm president of Analog. And she and Mark went down with me a little over a year ago and she's been to the drill site and she helps Mark fly drones. She loves to catch the drone as it comes down. So in her own five year old way, she knows that mommy really likes rocks and she knows what gold and gemstones are in particular. So she thinks every time we go out, that's what we're looking for. And she meets most of the people we work with, we actually take her with us, and she's ntegrated in with what we do. So she met something like three international Ministers of Mines before she was six months old. She's been passed around quite a bit at work meetings.
I imagine she'll be a complete mining expert at 10, own her own mine at 15.
Either that, or she'll want to do something completely different because she'll be so sick of us.
Did you ever feel like getting out of the mining business? You had an opportunity early on with the IBM consulting role, but then you came back with such a focus, is there is there the non-mining side of you?
Well, I think because of our work in the markets, we do some work outside of mining, because we've got a lot of experience in networks in those places. So in Afghanistan right now, for example, Global Venture is working with a company called DAI and the Invest Program to help Afghan companies respond to COVID-19. So we're helping Afghan pharmaceutical companies increase production of hand sanitizer, and connect Afghan distributors with international producers of disinfectant products, to help the Afghan community get access to products that can help combat the spread of COVID, which is, again, not the norm for for a natural resource consulting firm, but it's because we have been in Afghanistan for so long and know the private sector so well, and can take on challenging problems. So I think I never get bored in the mining industry, because for me, it's all about relationships and science, and that can lead you into some really interesting places. Five years ago, I never would have thought that being in mining, I'd be working on AI in the way that I am now. So anytime I think about getting out of mining, it's really more about how can I do something new within mining, that excites me and is innovative?
I like how you described it as relationships and science, I think that's my ideal industry. People doing cool things, learning stuff, and not only science, but you're doing a lot with technology, which is pretty awesome.
Yeah, I think it's all about questions. I enjoy asking questions - that may irritate my husband so much - but as a profession, it's really cool that any kind of science industry is always about asking new questions and trying to answer them. And geology and mining do the same increasingly, so. So that's really what excites me. And the relationships is what makes it really fun, right? Because you work with people from all over the world. There's a misperception that mining is all...excuse me, but old white guys from Canada. And that's really not the case, because mining is done all over the place. So people in mining are incredibly diverse and have a lot of cool experiences, a lot of adventures - mine are just the least of them. I mean, you get us all together at a bar and the stories you hear, it's as far from boring as you can get when you do some of this cool stuff,
Swapping those stories in the bar, is that part of the inspiration behind the name of your podcast 'On the Rocks'?
It is! I'm a big bourbon girl. Bourbon is my drink, and I got into bourbon because when I would start going to mining conferences, when I was younger, I'd be around a lot of men in particular, drinking scotch, and I couldn't stand scotch. So a colleague of mine said, hey, why don't you try this? It's a little sweeter so it might be easier for you to drink. And I loved it. And so there's a lot in mining that's relationship based, you only see each other like once a year or twice a year at these conferences sometimes. Because everyone's working on new projects all over the world. So when you get together, we have a lot of fun, and it's usually over cocktail, although you don't have to drink to be in the industry, of course. We drink a lot of coffee too, so that's a good alternative. But yeah, I wanted On the Rocks, our podcast, to allow you to eavesdrop and listen in on me catching up with folks over a drink and hear what's going on in the industry and with their company and what we're all thinking. That was the goal.
Do you like caving? And that's because one of my friends is a career geologist and he loves caving and I've gone down with him and my mom's going down with him, into the bowels of the earth and it's a fascinating world.
Yeah. I haven't done a lot of it, but what I've done I really enjoyed. It's amazing when you get down there to me it's almost similar to scuba diving. There's like this whole world down there that we don't ever really see.
I'm too afraid to go caving.
Don't watch those movies. There are a few of them, right? Where people get stuck...
Yeah, don't watch them. But your daughter might enjoy it. She's a good form factor, at least right now where she's got high power to weight ratio, can noodle into the little crevasses.
Well, her favorite thing about when she came to the gold mine in Mexico, there was an old sampling tunnel - it's not like an old mine, but a tunnel that you dig to be able to see what's going on inside - and there were a lot of bats, which she loved. If you ask her, "How was your trip to Mexico?", she's like, "I saw bats in the tunnel". So she probably would get a kick out of caving.
Emily, this has been a really fascinating discussion. Do you have any final words of advice to the aspiring miners, to the folks who didn't know the critical role of this industry, or maybe even had misperceptions about what is all involved in this awesome industry?
Yeah, I would really encourage folks to take a look at us, you know, to take a look at mining and minerals and just start to ask some questions about the industry and why it's important to you and why it excites you. And of course, I would really encourage you to check out Prospector, prospectorportal.com, because the whole point of the platform is to make mining and mining investment accessible and interesting. So we'd love to have people come and join the platform, who aren't familiar with mining and maybe are passionate about investing in technology or are impact investors, who are really passionate about the environmental or social justice issues, and how can you invest in mining projects that further those objectives. Those are the people we really want to bring into the conversation. So that's what I would encourage people to do, is just check it out, because it is critical to my everyday life, your everyday life. And it's also really critical to the future that we are all in the process of determining what it's going to look like in 15-20 years. And the best way to have that future be a positive one is to get more people involved in our industry in any way we can.
And be sure to check out On the Rocks, the podcast. If you're interested in dipping your feet in the waters.
Yeah, and if you want a little insider perspective on the mining industry that's not focused on investments, and it's not talking about, hey, check out this stock - we're not a stock promoting podcast, we're fun, and we have a cocktail together, and the conversations get a little bit more interesting towards the end of the podcast, because we've had a bourbon or two by the time we get there. But you'll get to hear from people who are working all over the world doing really cool stuff and why that stuff's important.
Well Emily, JMill and I would really like to thank you for being on the show today. So thanks for coming on.
Thank you so much for having me, it was a lot of fun. I look forward to staying in touch with you guys and your listeners. Hi, I'm Emily King of Analog Gold Prospector and Global Venture Consulting. Stay tough.
Thanks for joining us on this episode of tough tech today. If you enjoyed the show, please share with a friend. Like, subscribe and leave a five star review on any podcast app. In two weeks. We are going to be talking about the Mars oxygen in situ resource utilization experiment which will land on Mars today.