Arizona’s booming mining industry

Last month, Chamber Business News had the opportunity to speak with James Gowans, president and CEO of Arizona Mining, a mineral exploration and development company; and Steve Trussell, executive director of the Arizona Rock Products Association. Mr. Gowans and Mr. Trussell discussed the newest developments in Arizona’s booming mining industry at the recent Arizona-Mexico Commission Annual Summit in Tucson.

Arizona Mining has begun construction on their newest underground mine in the Patagonia Mountains in Santa Cruz County, near Nogales, as part of their Hermosa -Taylor Project which aims to escalate mining productivity in the area. The underground mine will be used to mine lead, zinc, and silver and is expected to open in 2020. Around 2,000 people will work on the construction of the mine, which will employ an anticipated 500 people in permanent positions after its completion. The mine is expected to impact over 3,000 people in the state of Sonora and Arizona through employment opportunities, economic stimulus, and production.

Arizona is the fifth largest state for aggregate production for the construction of infrastructure projects and the number two mining state, producing 68 percent of the nation’s copper. There are 6,000 jobs in the aggregate sector that support a projected 15,000 additional jobs in related industries. In the hard metal sector, which includes the mining of copper, silver, gold, and uranium, there are 12,000 jobs that support another 31,000 indirect jobs. In total, the mining industry and hard metal mining industry contribute $14.2 billion in Arizona.

The success of the mining industry is due to the abundance of natural resources in Arizona as well as the success of the industry in attracting workers. The Arizona Mining Association works closely with community colleges in the area and with the University of Arizona’s Mining and Geological Engineering School, which Mr. Trussell believes is the greatest workforce development pipeline.

With copper prices on the rise, the mining industry has expanded to meet the nation’s increasing demand. The newest mine in the Patagonia Mountains is a product of this expansion. “It’s very significant both for the state of Arizona and the state of Sonora in Mexico; we’ll have a big impact,” said Arizona Mining President and CEO James Gowan. “When you look at the amount of copper concentrate that’s coming out of Arizona now, its probably about 350,000, maybe 400,000 tons a year. Our mine alone will be close to 500,000 tons.” The mine will more than double copper exports, advancing Arizona’s position as a premier mining state.

Megan Donahey

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