Meet Our Expert Speakers


The SME Arizona 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 Southwest.

*Please check back often for updates on speakers.

Monday December 6, 2021 | 8:30 am – 9:00 am


Melissa (Mel) Sanderson | Founder of #ESG+, and Mel Sanderson Consulting




The last two years have fundamentally challenged business leaders to respond to new expectations of social justice (inclusivity, diversity, responsibility), changing climatic and environmental realities (fires and drought, floods and rising oceanlevels) and increased investor scrutiny of ESG (environmental, social, governance) performance.

Failing to understand this new dynamic can lead to high-profile consequences.

Companies must decide how to respond to what seems fundamentally to be a groundswell demand for a more ethical relationship with communities (the human environment), broader environmental stewardship and even more rigorous governance, including the scope and nature of political interactions.

Elevating ESG principles to the C-Suite and fully integrating its elements into every aspect of project development, from inception, through operations to closure, will be essential in helping companies transform and ultimately embrace Ethical Sustainable Growth. 

Melissa (Mel) Sanderson is a unique international entrepreneur, with capabilities honed by 21 years in the Diplomatic Service and 15 years with a major international mining company. She is the founder of #ESG+, and through her company, Mel Sanderson Consulting, she advises clients on how to achieve and maintain Ethical Sustainable Growth, including through culturally correct communication, inclusive social relations and transparent partnerships. She has earned numerous professional accolades, including the prestigious International Athena Award for Private Sector Businesswoman and the Top 25 Dynamic Women in Business (Phoenix). Mel is Chair of the Arizona District Export Council, past-President of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, and is on the Board of Western Rare Earths, Global Chamber, Arizona Council on Economic Education, the Arizona-Mexico Commission and the Japanese Friendship Garden. She has spoken at Universities throughout the US on issues related to business ethics, cultural communication and the importance of empathy for business success, and recently has been named a Professor of Practice at Thunderbird School of Global Management.


Monday, December 6, 2021 | 11:45 am – 1:00 pm


William X. Chávez, Jr. | Professor of Geological Engineering and Economic Geologist at the New México School of Mines



Copper metal has been used for at least 10,000 years, likely having an original name “Cyprium aes” (“Cyprus metal”), referring to important sources of copper from volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits in the Limassol Forest area of that island. Called The Everlasting Metal because of our ability to re-use copper indefinitely, alchemists used the Egyptian symbol “ankh”, meaning “everlasting”, to describe the red metal.

Almost 55,000 tonnes of copper are consumed each day worldwide, with U.S. per capita consumption about 5.1 kg; compare to 2.6 kg/person for Zn, 4.5 kg/person for Pb ( Of the 5.1 kg/person consumed each year in the U.S., approximately one-third is derived from recycling, meaning that newly-mined copper comprises more than two-thirds of our national requirement. The U.S. consumes about 8% of world production, or about half of that of the European Union, and much less than China’s consumption of 54% of produced copper.

Worldwide exploration budgets for copper (about $1.8B in 2020) are second only to those for gold (approximately $4.5B;, with brownfield exploration projects consuming greater budget allocations than dedicated greenfield targets. Latin America not only leads in copper production, with Chile (28.5%), Perú (11%), and México (3.5%) in the top ten global copper producing countries (, but also receives the greatest funding for exploration.

Although current exploration focuses on brownfield targets within, and adjacent to, known districts (e.g., Globe-Miami, Arizona; Bahuerachi, Chihuahua; Piedras Verdes, Sonora), greenfield exploration under cover (e.g., northern Chile/southern Perú; western Australia; Central Asia; western Africa) comprises regionally-important ore search as new, looking-under-cover exploration techniques are developed. Prospects and operating mines characterized by recoverable copper grades of less than 0.2% (e.g., Fortuna de Cobre, Chile; Aitik, Sweden; Tia María, Perú) expand the opportunities for economic definition of “copper ore”.

William X. Chávez, Jr. has been Professor of Geological Engineering and Economic Geologist at the New México School of Mines since 1985. He received B.S. degrees in Geology and in Mine Engineering from that school in 1977, and M.A. (1980) and PhD. (1984) degrees in Geology from the University of California, Berkeley. Involved with ore targeting and interpretation of geochemical and geologic data, Dr. Chávez has worked with exploration companies in Latin America, Central Asia, western and southern Africa, Australia, and the U.S. The focus of Dr. Chávez’ studies and those of his students have been on porphyry, epithermal, and polymetallic vein-CRD systems.