“It’s like a big playground open to all students” - a profile on Adam Arbizo, San Xavier Mine's new Laboratory Coordinator

July 19, 2023
Adam Arbizo


The SX Mine has been a favorite place for generations of students. The new coordinator wants to make it even more appealing.

Growing up in the mining town of Morenci, Arizona, Adam Arbizo seemed destined for a career in mining as well. Family members worked at the mine, and it was a common trajectory for his classmates, but Adam had set his eyes on joining the military. He eventually joined the Marine Corps after spending several years as a Wildland firefighter. After four years with the Marines, he returned to southern Arizona and did get into mining after all. He became an equipment operator for Hudbay, working on the preparations for the Rosemont mine. From there, it was only a small step to the SX mine – to be precise: about 40 miles to the west. “I was the emergency response team coordinator at Rosemont, and I came here for training.”

At this rescue event, Mine Manager James Werner had the opportunity to meet Adam: “After having the chance to get to know Adam a bit I felt that he may be a good fit for the mine and invited him to apply for a position at the SX when it became available”. In a public search for the position in 2023 Adam was identified as the best candidate for the position and hired as Laboratory Coordinator.

Adam Arbizo explaining sensor underground

Adam Arbizo explains a sensor that is part of a student research project

So, what does a laboratory coordinator do? “It's kind of all encompassing,” explains Adam. “I'm going to be giving tours, coordinating with different companies that want to come here to use it for training, upkeep and maintenance.” In addition to this ongoing work, Adam, who is 27, has a lot of ideas and plans to improve the mine and make it more appealing to visitors: replacing old wiring, working on the hoist system to clean out the lower levels of the old part of the mine to make them accessible for tours, a coat of paint here and there, improving accessibility. For the summer, a Wi-Fi extension, installation of ground monitoring equipment, and implementation of personnel tracking is planned for the whole mine as well as extending the new decline by 40 feet.

Adam’s energy is contagious and clearly shows his passion for getting the word out to elementary and high-school students what modern mining means. He believes that some still think it is a lot of manual labor and wants to show them modern machinery, drones, and sensors.

For University students, the opportunities are endless: “It's like a giant mining playground, basically.” Adam is looking forward to the new projects they will come up with. Some plan to build a simulated open-pit-type bench for equipment tests, others are working on a tracking device attached to hard hats that lets you monitor from the training center where people are in the mine. But access is not limited to engineers. Classes even from TV and Film or creative writing have made the mine a destination.

Students in the San Xavier Mining Laboratory

Group of students learning to use measuring equipment underground

The mine is a unique place. Not only is it underground, which is not the norm for this region, but it also allows the freedom to try things out without being hurried. That is different in operational mines, says Adam: “If they're up and running, they're all about productivity. You can't slow them down; you can't explore anything.”

Outside organizations use the mine for training as well. Firefighters or the military go in the smoke-filled tunnels to rescue wounded colleagues (played by dummies) or rappel off the hoist and into the shaft. In mid-June, the SX mine was the stage for the first Desert Falcon Multi-Agency Medical Response & Recovery Exercise featuring the National Guard 162nd Wing, various fire departments, helicopters from Banner Health Medical Transport, the Pima County Sheriff, and Arizona Department of Public Safety. and other partners, from rescue through treatment to evacuation.

With the Fall semester slowly approaching, Adam is very much looking forward to meeting the students and supporting their research at the SX mine. But this might not be the only place to meet him: With all his plans for the mine itself, Adam is also interested in furthering his own education. He hopes he will find the opportunity to come to campus and take some classes himself. 

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Mine tours

The tours are conducted in a mixed indoor and outdoor environment. Groups up to 15 can be accommodated underground, larger groups will be split. Tours last 1.5 to 2 hours.


Adam Arbizo
James Werner