***This 12-part series on mining in the Globe-Miami-Superior region focuses on individuals who represent more than one generation of mining professionals.
Paul Scales is an operator of electrical automation at BHP in Miami.“It’s a broad, interesting job,” he says. “There’s a lot of instrumentation, environmental monitoring, and things of that nature.”
On one recent project he worked with “a bunch of good people,” to update process control systems that integrate logic-based decision-making tools and web-based controls for management.
“We were amazed at the kind of data people wanted,” he says. “We thought it was a robust system, but we ran out of potential data storage.”
He also helped implement a system to automate mining equipment.
“We’re working toward having trucks drive themselves,” Paul says. “Getting people out of danger.”
Paul is a graduate of Miami High, class of 1996. He studied at Eastern Arizona College and completed an IBEW apprenticeship which gave him experience at many mines and a few power companies; he learned about high voltage power lines and automation controllers. He was also on the road a lot. When lucrative overseas offers came in, Paul decided he was tired of traveling.
“I had a wife and kids,” Paul says, “I wanted to be home more.”
In 2004, he was hired by BHP as an electrical specialist. The position opened when someone retired. In his early twenties, Paul was the youngest guy there.
“The next youngest was my Dad,” he says with a smile. “There was a generational gap that occurred when the mines shut down.”
In 2006 he joined the instrumentation and process controls department and in 2012 became the DIstributive Control Systems Engineer for a new department. He stayed on at Pinto Valley when the mine was sold to Capstone in 2013.
“In our department we had some free reign,” says Paul, “so we would build things and test them.”
He and his partner prototyped a lot of ideas. One was a robot (i.e. “giant roomba”) to be used in the concentration and crushing areas, where there is a lot of dust and large mobile equipment.
“People shouldn’t go into it,” Paul says. “But you can build a robot that can go into it. It may not do as good a job as a person but it can do it without endangering anyone.”
In 2017, Paul left Pinto Valley to work for BHP again. He has worked in all stages of a mine’s life. During his apprenticeship, he experienced new and expanding mines. In both 2007 and 2012, he helped restart the Pinto Valley Mine.
“Now I am helping with the closing of mines,” he says, “helping them back to their natural state.”
A Mining Family
As a child, Paul didn’t think of mining as a career.
“It was just something you went and did,” he says.
His maternal grandfather was a prospector and Paul recalls regular outings to the Pinal Creek area to tend his mining claims.
“For as long as I can remember,” he says, “we’d paint picket posts and take rock samples.”
Mining was featured in other family activities as well. His father and brother competed in drilling contests. His parents helped organize the Miami Boomtown Spree.
His father, Michael Scales began in mining as an underground timberman, building mine shafts. He retired as an engineering consultant in 2016. Paul’s older brother, Gabriel, also drilled underground and now works in Information Technology (IT).
For a time, all three men worked at Pinto Valley Mine, in different departments. At one point Paul and his brother had offices across the hall from each other, which allowed for playful antics and complementary problem-solving.
“We also got to work with our Dad,” Paul adds, “he was doing engineering projects and I was doing the automation on those projects.“
Paul describes the model his father’s career offered him as “pretty basic.”
“Do things you like. Have integrity in the things you do,” he says, “and that has served me.”
Building through the Generations.
“We were always building stuff,” Paul recalls, “me, my dad, and older brother.”
Together they built engines, electromagnets, telescopes, cars, catapults, rockets. Paul built his first computer at age seven or eight. Recently he made his dad a flywheel that runs off the heat of a coffee cup.
In his free time Paul enjoys martial arts, building robots, and performing science experiments with his own sons, both now nearly grown.
“We still do them,” says Paul. “If they want to do something, we just go out and do it.”
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.