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.

Sustainable Mining: The Past Reveals Our Future

Master of Ceremmonies: LaTisha Gietzen, Principal a LRG Range of Solutions

LaTisha Gietzen has over 25 years of experience in environmental planning, government affairs, public relations and community relations, including nearly 16 years with PolyMet/NewRange Copper Nickel. She has recently took a leap in her career to start a new consulting business called LRG Range of Solutions, LLC, which will allow her to continue to help move northeast Minnesota forward.
In her role managing public and community relations with PolyMet/NewRange, LaTisha was instrumental in the environmental review and permitting processes, public comment periods and setting the company’s public relations strategy.

Before she joined PolyMet/NewRange, LaTisha worked with Cleveland Cliffs as District Manager of Public Affairs for Minnesota. She was responsible for public and governmental affairs for all of Cleveland Cliffs Minnesota operations.

She has also worked with National Steel Pellet Company as Manager of Environmental and Governmental Affairs and continued in a similar role with U.S. Steel Corporation after it acquired National in 2003. LaTisha successfully negotiated and implemented the first Title V permit for a Minnesota taconite facility and permitted a new facility to expand fuel options.

Advocacy and community fuel LaTisha, and she currently serves on the Board of Directors for United Way of Northeast Minnesota as the first Vice President. She’s always been deeply involved with her community, dedicating her time and energy to many organizations over the years, including MiningMinnesota, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the IMA, the Range Engineering Council and Northspan, to name a few.



Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Opening Plenary

Reclaiming Minnesota’s Mined Lands: Lessons From Minnesota’s Mining Past

Peter Kero, VP and Sr. Environmental Engineer, Barr Engineering

A critical aspect of sustainable mining is the mitigation of impacts to mined lands. The opening plenary will examine the development of state-of-the-art conservation, reclamation and repurposing practices over the past 120 years of Minnesota’s iron mining history. From lean ore stockpiling techniques to the creation of award-winning mountain bike parks, this talk will demonstrate that innovation in mining can go beyond technological improvements to promote community betterment and the social license to operate.

Pete Kero is a Vice President and senior environmental engineer with Barr Engineering Company in Hibbing, Minnesota. He has over 29 years of experience in mining and industrial site cleanup and redevelopment. His work includes mine planning, permitting, remediation, water management, reclamation and repurposing at more than two dozen mine sites across Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona, Arkansas, Wisconsin and California. Pete was the visionary behind the award-winning Redhead Mountain Bike Park in Chisholm. The project repurposed several former iron mine pits and stockpiles into a destination-quality regional park for mountain biking, hiking, water recreation and all-terrain vehicles. The project has been featured in Outside Magazine and the nation-wide documentary film Biketown. In May 2023, his book Minescapes: Reclaiming Minnesota’s Mined Lands was published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.



Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation: Our History And Future

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation: Our History And Future

Ida Rukavina, commissioner of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation, will present “Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation: Our History and Future.” Ida leads a state of Minnesota economic development agency located in Eveleth which is about one hour north of Duluth. The agency works to strengthen the businesses, communities and workforce in northeastern Minnesota. It was created over 80 years ago to diversify the economy of a region largely dependent on a natural resource based economy – primarily iron mining.

Ida Rukavina serves as the Commissioner of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. As Commissioner, Ida leads an agency charged with investing resources to foster vibrant growth and economic prosperity in northeastern Minnesota by enhancing livable communities, maximizing collaborations and partnerships, and strengthening business and worker education. Prior to her appointment, she served as the executive director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS). Ida has primarily worked in government and the labor movement, representing public and private employees in northern Minnesota and working with government at the state, local, and federal levels.? Ida Rukavina was born and raised on the Iron Range. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and American Politics with a concentration in Race and Ethnic Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Advocacy and Political Leadership from the University of Minnesota – Duluth. Ida and her husband Jesse enjoy living on the Iron Range with their two daughters. She is passionate about the great north woods and enjoys spending family time camping, skiing, snowboarding, hiking and fishing.

Sponsored by
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Wednesday, April 17, 2024 | 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Closing Plenary

United States Steel and Cleveland-Cliffs will provide corporate updates that highlight their vision for a sustainable future.

United States Steel Updates

Erika Chan, Head of Sustainability

Erika L. Chan joined U. S. Steel as the first head of Sustainability.  In this role, she has enterprise-wide responsibility for all aspects of the Corporation’s sustainability efforts. Prior to joining U.S. Steel, Erika worked for Dell Technologies where she shaped the corporate sustainability strategy, advanced long-term goals, and identified opportunities to integrate sustainability practices into business units. Erika has also led the Asia Pacific marketing team at The Nature Conservancy, and she practiced international development consulting at Deloitte Emerging Markets Group.
Erika received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Resource Management and Business from The University of Texas at Austin.

She serves on the Advisory Council of The University of Texas at Austin Environmental Science Institute and is an Advisory Board member of The Nature Conservancy of Texas.


Cleveland-Cliffs Updates

Marissa Brydle, Director of Corporate Sustainability

Marissa Brydle has served as the Director of Corporate Sustainability for Cleveland-Cliffs since June 2021. Cliffs’ corporate sustainability team works with leadership and cross-functionally to set sustainability goals, execute associated strategies and manage external reporting activities, including GHG emissions inventory. The corporate sustainability team also plays a key role in evaluating decarbonization opportunities for the Company, and partners with other corporate departments to engage with external stakeholders around sustainability topics. 

Prior to joining Cliffs, Marissa spent 13 years in sustainability consulting, most recently at a global environmental services firm.


Panel Discussion on Sustainable Mining Moderated by: LaTisha Gietzen


Sponsored by
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