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Christina Wanhainen
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"SUN is about how we can use our natural resources in a smart and balanced way"

Published: 31 May 2022

Christina Wanhainen is professor of ore geology and scientific leader of SUN.

Tell us a little about yourself!

I grew up in Bureå in Västerbotten and worked there and in Skellefteå a few years before I moved to Uppsala to study to be a bedrock geologist. I moved to Luleå in 1998 to do my doctorate. I still live here, with my husband and three children. I prefer to spend my free time outdoors, dressed for training or with a coffee thermos, or at an auction or flea market.

What are you researching right now?

My research is mostly about smaller components of an ore, trace metals that could become future by-products, such as cobalt, rhenium and rare earth metals. How and why did they end up there? I also study the traceability of certain ore minerals, and the possibility of using Swedish bedrock for carbon dioxide storage.

How come you started researching your subject?

After graduation, I worked with copper and gold exploration for a foreign company but lacked the time to investigate further, to dive into details, develop new knowledge, and understand. When a doctoral position appeared at Luleå University of Technology in Ore Geology, I thought that maybe it could be something for me, and that was it!

How does your research play a role in SUN?

All the fossil-free energy systems that the world now has to invest in require large amounts of metals and minerals. Where are they? Sweden has a long tradition of looking for base metals and gold, but we have less knowledge of many of the metals that are now needed. In my research, I look at how and where these sit in the earth's crust and what conditions in them or their host mineral you can use to find them in the bedrock. Traceability is about being able to show which mine or mining district a metal comes from. When the Swedish mining industry has become climate neutral, it will be important for companies to show that their metals come from a green mine.

What is the most fun discovery / result you have made / produced as a researcher?

Finding and identifying unusual minerals that also become important pieces of the puzzle in understanding how an ore is formed is super cool. When I studied the formation of the Aitikmalm, I found, for example, thaumasite and pyrosmalite, both of which contributed in their own way to clarifying the picture. I was also the first to find visible gold in Aitik's drill cores, then there was a commotion!

What do you want to achieve during your research career?

I want to have fun, make new discoveries, learn as much as possible about everything possible, and feel free to act as a mouthpiece so that the gap between researchers and the general public is reduced. I hope that what I do in different ways contributes to a successful green transition.

What is the most fun / challenging part of being part of SUN?

The most fun AND the most challenging is to be able to discuss complex and important issues with researchers with completely different expertise and competence than I myself possess, to turn and twist arguments and try to find the right type of research questions and initiatives where Luleå University of Technology researchers can really do difference. To also be able to discuss challenges and visions with the companies, authorities and interest groups that participate in SUN's strategic council feels very enriching.

Why do you think SUN is important?

SUN is about how we can use our natural resources in a smart and balanced way, in harmony with industry, nature and society, with the green transition in focus. How to do this in the best way? This is an extremely complex issue and that is precisely why it is important that it is raised and researched by multidisciplinary research groups.

Christina Wanhainen

Christina Wanhainen, Professor and Head of Subject

Phone: +46 (0)920 492401
Organisation: Ore Geology, Geosciences and Environmental Engineering, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering