Note: Our new series on mining will feature men and women who have followed in the footsteps of family members who work in mining. We have titled our new series; ‘Second-Generation Miners’ although many can track their family history back three or four generations in the local mining industry. This months’ feature profiles Dennis Palmer, whose father and grandfathers all worked in mining.
What do you do?
“My days are never the same,” Dennis says, “which is awesome.”
Dennis Palmer, 36, is the Operations Support Superintendent at the Pinto Valley MIne. He supervises 10 supervisors and oversees departments that include fleet and facilities, tailings operations, SX/EW and leaching operations and the assay lab.
His team supports the operation with pipe work in the pit, carpentry needs in the mill, building guards, welding, and maintenance of a huge fleet of vehicles and mobile equipment.
Dennis likes the busy pace, the interactivity, being in the field and helping to solve problems. He’s been in the newly created position since February 2020.
“It’s challenging and it’s exciting,” Dennis says, “I’m learning more from my team than they’re learning from me, for sure.”
Child of a Miner
“I’m never working in the mines,” Dennis thought in his childhood, “it’s dangerous.”
Although his father and both grandfathers were miners, Dennis had dreams of going to college and doing “something else.” By senior year, his thoughts and priorities had changed.
He had friends working in the mines. Making good money. There was a baby on the way. When Dennis graduated from Globe High School in 2002, he went to work as a laborer at a calcium mine in Superior.
“It’s kind of all we knew,” he reflects, “kind of the culture here.”
He turned the job into a career. Became an operator. Worked at Phelps-Dodge. He came to realize and respect how hard his parents had worked, and his grandparents.
“No one ever went hungry,“ Dennis says.
Grandchild of a Miner
Ron Ray is Dennis’ maternal grandfather and was general foreman at Pinto Valley when it reopened in 2007. At his invitation, Dennis attended a job fair and got a position as a mill control technician. His first supervisor taught him about leadership.
“Everyone needs someone to mentor them,” Dennis says. “For the most part, a good supervisor can make anyone a good employee.”
When BHP shut the mine down in 2009, Ron Ray retired.
By 2012, Dennis was promoted to supervisor. Then senior supervisor. Then shift superintendent. He’s currently taking courses online to earn a degree. His long-term goal is a position in general management.
Dennis likes the vantage of working for a smaller company.
“It’s relationship-based,” he says, “You’re not just a number at Capstone.”
What’s Different about mining now?
“Safety culture,” says Dennis without pause.
He’s heard stories about the “crazy things” they did in his forefathers’ era
“That’s changed tremendously,” he says. “For the better.”
What is the same?
“Fellowship. Comradery of the mines,” says Dennis. “I’ve worked with people from all over the world. It’s unified. You learn from each other. Everyone in mining wants mining to be successful.”
The Next Generation
For Dennis, mining is personal.
“It’s literally in my blood,” he says, “both sides!”
He also sees mining as a part of something greater.
“It’s so easily overlooked but it’s so big. Every single person in the world damn near is impacted by mining, in a positive way. Turning on the light. Using a cell phone,” says Dennis. “That we can do this and protect our employees and communities, it’s pretty awesome.”
Dennis’ daughter, Madison Palmer is a 2020 summer intern at Pinto Valley, working in processing. At 18, she has already excelled in academics, sports and service and is now a pre-med student at Grand Canyon University.
“If they want to get into mining, I’ll support it,” says Dennis, now father to three. “If they want to go into something else, I’ll support that.”
*Correction made to the spelling of Phelps Dodge 8-24.
A traveler, Patti Daley came to Globe in 2016 to face the heat, follow love, and find desert treasure. She writes in many formats and records travel scraps and other musings at daleywriting.com.