"What might have been considered waste 25 years ago is being commercially mined today, and this is only going to get better."
What is the role of AMIGOS in the mining industry?
AMIGOS stands for Arizona Mining and Industry Get Our Support. Our 300-plus AMIGOS member companies collectively employ thousands and are the best of the best mining suppliers. Besides providing excellence in goods and services, we are also the mining industry’s ground troops to lend public support whenever they need us, whether making public comment to various agencies, attending scoping meetings, or offering testimony to legislative bodies. Positioned as a largely small to midsize business organization, the average citizen of Arizona can relate to AMIGOS as a job creation engine in our country.
How do you see ESG themes shaping the mining industry in Arizona and what contribution can mining suppliers make?
Mining suppliers are at the forefront of developing many of the latest technologies that the mines are implementing to continuously improve. Today the industry is focused on air quality, water quality, reclamation, sustainability, as well as safety. The Resolution Copper project near Superior took a legacy site and invested substantial amounts of money in restoring the area. Today, you cannot tell there was ever a mine there. Mines today and in the future plan, prepare, and provision for the reclamation of the project before ever beginning permitting. Florence Copper has now completed its production test facility proving that this in situ project can be done with total protection for the environment. They have educated people about how this type of project works during countless public meetings. Included in their plan are parks, open space, and recreation areas that will be created in the future when mining operations cease.
As our nation and the world move toward a renewable energy future, far more mined materials will be necessary. We currently have a serious shortage of critical minerals that are needed to produce solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. There is deep concern about reliable and sustainable supplies of minerals like lithium, cobalt, copper, and rare earth elements to support this energy transition. AMIGOS members look forward to being part of providing solutions to this looming crisis.
What are the main global trends influencing AMIGOS members?
Prior to the pandemic, our members mostly built relationships with customers in person, and this became challenging, but new opportunities have been created. Now, we have all become Zoom experts, and this allows us to assist our members in reaching new clients worldwide, especially throughout North America.
What role do you think innovation can play to help Arizona maintain its role as a top mineral producer?
When I started working with AMIGOS 28 years ago, mining managers would give presentations that projected future mine life of 20-25 years. Now, more than 25 years later, those same mines are largely still operating with projected mine life, again, of 20, 25, or even 30 more years. This is due to the amazing strides the industry has made to mine with much greater efficiency. What might have been considered waste 25 years ago is being commercially mined today, and this is only going to get better. Currently, 70% of the nation’s newly mined copper is produced in Arizona. This will continue and even grow. Consider the Resolution Copper project. When it comes into production, that mine alone will be capable of mining 25% of the nation's newly mined copper by itself. And besides copper, have projects in development like South 32 Hermosa project, which will produce needed manganese and zinc. Arizona is rich in rare earths, which we need to mine here because our nation should not be dependent upon foreign sources, like China, for something that we absolutely must have for the technological advancement we need as a country.
How do you see the future of mining suppliers in the state?
Our members are busy. With so much work to be done, it’s a challenge finding and training employees. That is why it is important to have a strong partner as Arizona does with the University of Arizona. They are not only turning out quality engineers, geologists, metallurgists, environmental scientists, etc, they are also developing new technologies, particularly in environmental protection and remediation. Partnering with trade schools is equally important because mining industry jobs at all levels are among the highest paid and safest of any industry and critical to the overall success of mines.