The University of Arizonas San Xavier Mining Laboratory near Sahuarita is a hands-on learning space for students and a place where people in the industry can discover the future of mining.

In 2021, the university completed a new tunnel or decline, more than a $1 million investment.

We were trying to teach and train in a mine that was started in the 1880s, so we really saw a need to put in a modern space to be able to teach, train, equipment development, autonomy, flying drones, said James Werner, director of the San Xavier Mining Laboratory.

Going to an active mine, youre in the way of production and theres, harder to get stuff done, he explained. Here, close to campus. Its a non-producing site that we can replicate a modern mining environment for whatever the goal is Theres no wood, theres no train track. Its cleaner, its bigger. Technology running through it.

Mining equipment is getting safer and more sustainable. Autonomous and battery-powered machines are becoming more common.

Sensors in helmets can track people within the mines, and tracking rock movement digitally is more precise than ever.

Werner says there are many groups and companies anxious to dig deeper into the new decline, to use it for testing, training and learning.

The second we kinda said, Hey were open for business, we have more people and requests than we have room underground for, said Werner.

That expansion could begin as soon as early next year.