San Xavier Underground Mining Laboratory

The University of Arizona owns a student run, multi-level, underground mining laboratory with a working vertical shaft

Located 23 miles south of Tucson, the Henry G. “Hank” Grundstedt San Xavier Mining Laboratory has one of the nation’s most sophisticated research hoisting systems, two declines for access of rubber-tired vehicles and legacy rail haulage access. The mine features four levels of underground workings to a depth of 250 feet. This unique site has attracted projects critical to national defense, geosciences, mine safety and miner rescue.

The San Xavier lab is structured like an operating mine, where all supervisory positions are held by undergraduate students – including mine manager, safety manager and shift foremen. Mining and geology students gain hands-on hard-hat experience here. They participate in mine development, unit operations and maintenance. They’re also exposed to the latest technical advances in mining and excavation. The lab also is used for mine rescue and recovery exercises. On a lighter note, Sesame Street and the History Channel have filmed in the mine. 

looking up a mine shaft

The San Xavier mine operated from 1880 until 1952, producing silver, lead, zinc and copper. UArizona's then College of Mines began operating the Number 6 Shaft in 1958 and has owned it since 1975. Today the land holding includes three more adjacent mining claims for a total of nearly 90 acres.

This underground mining lab has long been a training and research resource for federal and state agencies, as well as organizations devoted to underground research, tunnel safety and mine rescue. A number of external clients currently use this site for research. It is also a training site for the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Bureau of Land Management, Arizona State Mine Inspectors Office, fire departments, search and rescue units and mine rescue teams.

This underground lab is central to the university’s multidisciplinary Mine Health and Safety program. Thanks to decades of mining industry partnerships, the university today is considered a center of excellence in mine health and safety. These partnerships underscore the industry’s commitment to creating a culture of mine health and safety.

Contact: James Werner, Assistant Director, San Xavier Mine

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.