Meet Lawrence Hooey, Technology and Innovation Manager at Swedish Mining Innovation. Born in Sudbury, Ontario 1968, raised in New Liskeard, Ontario.
Attracting people to come to the mining and metals sector is a big challenge, and foreign recruitment is one avenue to help meet the challenge. My experience, which stems from 30 years ago, long before the current need materialized, is that moving to and working in different countries is very rewarding and comes with its own set of personal challenges – language, culture, weather, distance from family, through to navigating the visa requirements, tax, school, medical, pension systems etc. Even after six years in Finland, moving to Sweden was a bit of a culture shock for me, even more so than moving from Canada to Finland. Integrating the family into the new life is certainly a key factor. I was single when I first moved so that surely made it much easier. What might the path to moving from one country to another look like and what is it that makes you choose to stay? This is one path.
So if we take it from the beginning. How does a Canadian end up in Sweden and Luleå?
-It was in May 1993 I had the opportunity to travel to Raahe, Finland for a 3 month work placement through the IAESTE exchange programme. This was just after finishing my chemical engineering degree in Canada. Finland at that time was still adjusting to the collapse of the Soviet Union and opening up more towards western Europe. I worked in Rautaruukki steel plant studying sinter reduction characteristics which I found very interesting, and had a very kind and wise mentor, Dr. Kyösti Heinänen. I wanted to continue working at Rautaruukki and proposed a year contract, which was accepted, to continue working with sinter and revamp the reduction testing equipment.
Then the contract ended but I wanted to stay so then was funded to start a PhD in Oulu under Prof. Jouko Härkki. After a year I returned to the steelworks and continued by studies on the side and defended my thesis on magnetite sintering in 1999. The sinter was largely made from magnetite coming from LKAB, and LKAB had just invested in the pilot blast furnace – a unique facility and researchers dream – in Luleå. For five years I worked on pilot blast furnace campaigns and pellet development at LKAB. This was my first move to Luleå. Then I returned for two years as ironmaking process development manager in Raahe. My son was born in Raahe.
Our family then moved to western Australian for a year working with mineral processing of iron ores. The 40+ Celsius heat and very remote work was not me. As fate would have it, opportunity came up to both work with magnetite and move back to Luleå to work for a year as process manager on the new iron ore project in Pajala, at that time in prefeasibility studies. My former wife and I decided Luleå was the best place for us, although we did look at returning to Canada. When the economic crisis struck in 2008 I returned to research at Swerea MEFOS (now Swerim) for a decade before coming to Luleå University of Technology and Swedish Mining Innovation in 2019.
“So, at least in my world, Luleå is the centre of gravity and feel very lucky to have had so many friends, great career opportunities and places to live along the way. I’m here to stay.”