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Copper remains strong part of Ariz. economy

  • Updated

Salaries in Arizona's mines are more than twice those for the average job, says a new mining industry-financed report.

When benefits are included, the average worker in the mining industry earned $108,000 a year as of 2011, says the report from Kent Hill, a research professor in economics at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business.

The average pay and benefits for people working in mining-related jobs not directly in the industry, such as suppliers, is $80,000, he reports.

The average for all Arizona workers, including benefits, is about $47,000, he says.

The report also says that the mining industry remains a significant force in Arizona's economy, although the percentage of statewide jobs in the mining industry has dropped from 25 percent a century ago to 1.5 percent by 2011.

"The economy is now so diverse, very few narrowly-defined industries account for more than a few percentage points of total employment," Hill said in an email to the Star. "Copper mining directly employs around 10,000 people. Compare this with, say, semiconductor production which employs around 18,000 people or the air transportation industry with 14,000 workers."

The study, called "The Economic Impact of the Mining Industry on the State of Arizona," is done annually by ASU's L. William Seidman Research institute. It was financed by the Arizona Mining Association, an industry trade and advocacy group. ASU has replaced George Leaming's Western Economic Analysis center in Marana in conducting these studies. Leaming did them through 2010.

The new report also says:

• Considering mining jobs and other jobs related to mining, all 2011 mining activity provided an estimated 49,800 Arizona jobs and labor income of $3.24 billion. The related effects, also known as indirect impacts, include purchases of goods and services by mining industry suppliers, consumer spending by all employees connected to the industry, and local and state government spending of tax revenues generated by the industry.

• In 2011, mining companies paid $212 million in business taxes to Arizona governments, while their employees paid an estimated $96 million in individual taxes. Per employee, Arizona mining companies pay an average of $27,200 per worker in individual and business taxes, compared to about $6,500 per worker paid in individual and business taxes from all businesses in the state.

• Pima County had the most mining-industry employees of any of the state's 15 counties in 2011, with 2,449. Greenlee and Graham counties finished second and third with more than 1,500 mining employees apiece.

• When it came to employees in mining and mining-related industries combined, Maricopa County was the leader, with 18,177 employees in 2011. Pima County ranked second with 13,870. No other county had more than about 3,220 total mining and mining-related employees.

Hill presented his report's findings Friday on "Arizona Mining Review," a live, online magazine done by the Arizona Geological Survey, a state agency.

"What used to be taught in public schools 40 years ago is that the state's economy consisted of the five Cs, including copper," Hill said. (The others were citrus, cattle, cotton and climate.) "That kind of acronym is a little dated now.

"We have new C's such as computer chips and call centers. But copper is still very much in the top five export-based industries in the state."

Afterward, the show's host, Lee Allison, the state's geologist and the geological society's director, said the report demonstrates that copper remains an important part of the economy, although not the largest part.

"The financial impacts for jobs, for the tax base from the industry, are very significant, particularly in rural counties," Allison said. "The mines are some of the biggest economic drivers in many of these rural counties."

"We have new C's (in Arizona's economic base) such as computer chips and call centers," Hill said. "But copper is still very much in the top five export-based industries in the state."

Lee Allison,

Arizona's state geologist

Contact reporter Tony Davis at or 806-7746.

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