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Second Generation Miners: Frank Molina

Frank Molina
Superintendent, Arizona Legacy Assets

Frank Molina began his career in mining as a laborer while he was still in his teens. 40 years later, he is the Superintendent of Arizona Legacy Assets for BHP.

“A good day at work is when we’ve managed to complete a project on time, on budget, and nobody got hurt,” Frank says.

There are conference calls, administrative work, budgeting, a lot of paperwork. He spends less time in the field than he used to and more time in front of a computer. It’s one of the pitfalls of moving into higher positions, he admits.

“Every chance I get I jump on a piece of equipment,” Frank says.

Hands-On Education

“If you grow up around mining, there is a good chance you’re going to go into mining,” says Frank. “The money was good. The benefits were great.”

Frank grew up outside of Mammoth, AZ. His father worked at the San Manuel mine. Magma Copper supported the local high school that Frank attended, providing elective courses in woodworking, welding and mining.

“We’d actually go to the mine and go underground to see what the different aspects of mining were about — production phases and so forth,” explains Frank, “to help us get in tune to what the mining process was all about and whether we were drawn to it.”

Frank got a job at Magma Copper before he graduated. His plan was to go to college and become a mining engineer. Instead, shortly after starting as a laborer he transferred to the maintenance department where he became a Journeyman mechanic for many years and moved into maintenance management until the suspension of operations at San Manuel in 1999.

“In maintenance, we work on improving numbers — less downtime, more availability,” Frank explains.

Each time the area he was supporting improved, he got moved to another area.
The moves upset Frank at the time but now he is thankful for those orders.

“It made me who I am,” he says. “I was able to learn everything there was to know about maintenance in running a mine — pneumatic, hoisting, dewatering, underground utilities…”

During the years of closure, Frank was reassigned to safety concerns. For about 7 years, he traveled through Arizona, Utah, California and Canada and conducted safety audits of projects taking place at closed sites. It was all hands-on training and a lot of time in the field.

After Pinto Valley sold (to Capstone) and the BHP corporate office in Tucson shut down, Frank was offered a position as Superintendent for the Arizona Legacy Assets (closed sites) that included the Miami site and Old Dominion in Globe.

“I was more than willing because I was tired of living out of a suitcase,” he says. “It was an opportunity to support a whole new group of guys and get to know a new group of properties.”

Today he works with a small crew in San Manuel and feels fortunate to have a competent team he trusts.

“I know they are going to do what is needed and it will be done safely,” says Frank. “That’s a big deal. The most important part of coming to work is going home safely. Every day.”

Generational Values

Frank’s father, Fred Molina, began his career in mining as a laborer while he was still in his teens. He was one of the first underground miners at the Tiger St. Anthony Mine and then, San Manuel Mine.

“He worked in all development phases — dragging drifts, to the undercut to the concrete crews,“ says Frank.

Fred retired from mining in 1986 at age 56 and enjoyed a nice long retirement. When he died in 2015 at age 84, he had a wife of 62 years, 7 children, 21 grandchildren and dozens of great grandchildren.

“He always thrived,” Franks says, “whether he’s working at home or in the mines.”

Frank is the youngest of Fred’s seven children and the only one who followed him into the mining profession. The careers of father and son overlapped for a few years; they were both employed by Magma. Frank recalls how his father always emphasized safety and had no accidents in his mining career.

“We remember how underground mining was back then,” he says, “and he never had a lost-time injury.”

Frank attributes his own personal safety record — no reportable injuries in 40 years — in part to his father.

“I never remember him taking shortcuts,” he says. “Do the job right and do it safely.”


Frank Molina, 59, was born in San Manuel Hospital and grew up near Mammoth. He lives there and in Tucson. Frank is married, has two grown children and became a grandfather this past New Year’s Eve. He loves to hunt, fish and camp.

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