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Second Generation Miners: Fred Sanchez

Maintenance Supervisor 

Capstone Mining Corp. 

Fred Sanchez is a people person who maintains machinery at Pinto Valley Mine. The mine owners have changed over the years and so has Fred’s job, but he’s been a part of the operation for over 45 years.  

“I love being around people,” he says, “I love my job.”  

Fred’s mining career began on May 10, 1974 when he went to work as a converter operator at the Inspiration Consolidated Copper Mine.  

“When I first got there I knew everybody. They were all my dad’s friends and relatives,” says Fred. “It was like… home.” 

Fred estimates at least 50 – 60 family members (Sanchez and Salazar) are currently working at Pinto Valley and Inspiration mines (Freeport McMoRan). Today he works with many nieces and nephews. In the early days it was his Uncle Frank and Aunt Rachel, Brother John and cousins, Eleanore and Frank Jr. 

“We’d meet everyday,” he says, ”they’d bring me lunch.” 

 

Making Moves – Building Skills  

While there is mining pedigree on both sides of Fred’s family tree, his own father was a  Engineer  for the Arizona Highway Department for over 40 yrs. 

Fred’s first job at Pinto Valley was driving 150 ton haul trucks.    

 “It’s like driving a car,” says Fred, “It takes a certain amount of skill.”  

A year later, Fred entered a training program that taught him how to do maintenance for all parts of the mining operation. He began with shovels and drills, moved into the machine shop, the welding shop, the crusher, the mills.  After that Fred got a state-certified pipe fitter apprenticeship, a 4-year program which trained him to maintain the water and air lines throughout the entire plant.  

“We took care of everything,” he says, “over a million feet of pipe.” 

Following his apprenticeship, Fred was put on a crew and spent 8 years on the crusher. Six years in the mill. Finally he landed in the maintenance shop. That was his favorite. A supervisor took him under his wing and taught him industrial and residential plumbing after work. He did side jobs with his father plumbing homes and office buildings. 

“I loved plumbing because I worked with my Dad,” he says. “It elevated my skill level.”  
 
 

By 30, Fred was the father of four, working full-time at the maintenance shop and doing plumbing at night. 

When the maintenance shop shut down 15 years ago, Fred moved to the outlying maintenance crew that handled maintenance on wells around the property, tailings systems, and all the water coming into the plant. He learned about different parts of the company. 

 
“The most interesting thing was being outside,” says Fred. “The country is beautiful.  Fresh air every day.” 

Next came Inlying maintenance and the filter plant and mill water pump house. Five years ago Fred became supervisor, leveraging the skills, knowledge and leadership abilities he developed over four decades.  

“I picked up leadership skills in the military,” says Fred, “both careers helped each other.” 

In 1985 Fred joined the U.S. Navy Reserves  Seabee, enlisted by  Ernest Valdez  who also got him into mining. The Seabees, he says, use all their skills, including crane operation which Fred learned at the mine.  Fred served for 26 years. 

“Once I got in, I loved it,” says Fred. “I loved the people.” 

 

The Next Generations   

 

Fred’s own two sons and two daughters are full-grown and well-employed in other fields.   

“I thank God everyday that they are all educated and doing good for themselves,” he says. 

Fred is getting close to retirement.  Maybe March.   

“I want to help my grandkids, says Fred, “whatever help they need for schooling.” 

Throughout the years, Fred coached athletes and participated in education outreach at local high schools. He loved it and got great support from his mining supervisor.  

“Whatever I asked for, I got,”  he says. “Mining carts, pieces of ore, turquoise…” 

When his daughter’s mother-in-law (DJ Bollinger) asked for an underground tour, Fred and the plant manager (Lee Brown) made it happen. The kids went 800 feet down at the Miami Unit and saw the steam engine that pumped the air for workers to breathe. 

“Leadership at Pinto Valley has really offered me the opportunities to grow,” says Fred. “They’ve always encouraged me.” 

 
 

Personal 

Fred Sanchez was born in 1953, graduated from Globe HS in 1971. He is married, has four grown children , five grandchildren , one great granddaughter and currently lives in Mesa with his wife Denise. 

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