No. 8 Mining, Mineral & Surface Technology

High Paying Jobs Fuel the Community


By Tara Kirkpatrick

When Caterpillar chose Tucson for the new offices of its Surface Mining & Technology Division in 2016, it put our already mining-rich region in the national spotlight as an emerging competitive hub in the industry.

“This is a huge win for Tucson and the entire region,” Governor Doug Ducey said when he announced the news. “In addition to bringing jobs and capital investment to Southern Arizona, a project of this level will have a ripple effect throughout the community and state. This is an excellent example of Arizona’s attractiveness to businesses as well as our strength in collaborative economic development.”

Even with a mining history that reaches back over 1,000 years, having the world’s largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment here has cemented the region’s growing significance. Southern Arizona boasts companies that include Hexagon, University of Arizona-born Modular Mining, AXISCADES, MST Global and many others.

“In the ultra-competitive world of economic development, it’s vital for a region to play to its strengths, such as mining,” said Joe Snell, president and CEO of Sun Corridor Inc. “These are high-paying jobs which result in increased spending in this community each and every day.”  

Southern Arizona has approximately 380 active mines, according to the Arizona Geological Survey. Chief among them is copper, one of the state’s most abundant minerals. But also included are gold, silver, gypsum, salt, cement and more. Recruiting mining companies here continues to be an economic initiative.

“Economic development is all about the range of business stages, from startup, to expansion to attraction,” Snell said. “Modular Mining, now Komatsu, started out of the UA. We competed with several regions to keep Hexagon here and Caterpillar was a huge attraction win for this community.  Every company contributes to this region’s success.”

Hexagon, which focuses on autonomous technology and digital solutions to promote safety and sustainability, recently built its headquarters near downtown Tucson. Hexagon Mining Mining Division President Nick Hare calls it “the ideal location for a North American headquarters of a global technology company. It’s no secret that Tucson is an emerging technology hub. There are numerous examples of both veteran and start-up tech companies choosing this city for their headquarters.”

“Tucson is highly attractive for millennial talent from universities and abroad,” added Hare. “Better yet, as a training center for customers, our location allows us to fully expose the rich possibilities of a smarter, safer, fully connected mine.”

Modular Mining, founded by a UArizona assistant professor and three graduate students, focuses on real-time, computer-based mine management solutions. The company, established in Tucson in 1979, was purchased by Komatsu in 1996 and expanded its headquarters and added a new Customer Experience Center in 2020. “Tucson is evolving into a key mining technology hub, and this expansion demonstrates our commitment to leading this transformation as a long-term member of this community,” Modular Mining President and CEO Jorge Mascena said at the time. 

Fueling the mining industry’s workforce is UArizona. More than 600 graduates of the College of Engineering work to support the industry, according to Sun Corridor Inc.  The college’s Mining & Geological Engineering program is not only one of the university’s oldest departments, it’s also one of the top-ranked programs in the nation. 

In 2021, the Arizona Board of Regents approved the creation of a School of 

Mining & Mineral Resources at UArizona. This new school, expected to make UArizona the premier institution devoted to mineral resources, will focus on bringing more sustainability to the industry. That’s  in the face of a potential 200% increase in copper demand by 2050, forecasted by the World Bank, to fuel an increasingly digital and low-carbon life, from cell phones to cars to solar panels and wind turbines.

Key to the future mining workforce, Pima Community College also offers mining technology courses and Pima Joint Technical Education District is delivering tuition-free, hands-on courses  to high school students in mining technology, as well as automation, welding and heavy equipment operation and more.

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