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Feb 12, 2014 6:15 PM by Sam Salzwedel

Mining expert impressed by Nogales drug tunnel

SAHUARITA - Even a University of Arizona mining expert is impressed by the longest known drug tunnel in Nogales history.

"That's a remarkable distance," San Xavier Mine Director Steve Gravley said. "You start digging something underground, and depending on the geological strata of what you're digging, that's quite a distance. And that's quite a lot of effort."

Monday, international authorities discovered a 481-foot tunnel that went from a house in Nogales, Arizona to a house in Nogales, Sonora.

"It would require some surveying and some engineering skills," Gravley said. "You would use some sort of transit and keep yourself going in a straight line or at least in a direction you would want to go."

Southwest of Tucson, the San Xavier Mine is an old lead mine used to teach mining and geological engineering students at the University of Arizona.

Gravley thinks the smugglers might have purchased mining equipment that is not necessarily available at hardware stores.

"Particularly here in the West, lots of different vendors that will provide these type of materials for anybody that would want them," he said.

Gravley said it would be easy to dig underground without making too much noise. He said even explosives would not make much disturbance above the surface.

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