Find solutions to support both mining and the environment – by Adam Ulbricht (St. Cloud Times – July 11, 2017)

Minnesota has a rich history of industry that has shaped the character of our state. From the Great Northern Railroad to the Minneapolis flour mills to premiere medical facilities, our state has contributed to the progress of the United States. But perhaps no other industry in Minnesota has played a larger role for that progress beginning in the mid-19th Century than that of mining.

I recently had the pleasure of spending time on two of our state’s three iron ranges. Here I got a first-hand look at the past and present of this proud industry. Coming from Central Minnesota, I share a mutual respect for mining given our own tradition of being a supplier of granite.

Minnesota’s commercial iron ore mining history dates back to 1884 with the opening of the Soudan Mine near the town of Tower on the Vermilion Range. The “Cadillac” of mines first started as an open pit but operations moved underground to capture the rich ore. By the time the mine closed in 1962, they had reached 2,341 feet below the surface, marking the deepest point in our state!

You can now tour the mine, which I highly recommend. We were lucky enough to have a passionate and knowledgeable guide that grew up in the local area. It was fascinating hearing about the working conditions miners endured without today’s advanced technology and lighting.

I also got a tour of an open-pit taconite mine near Eveleth. As high-grade iron ore started to become depleted following World War II and technology advanced, mining companies found lower-grade taconite to be more economical. Taconite operations on Minnesota’s Mesabi Range provide U.S. steel mills with 80 percent of first-pour steel used in a variety of appliances consumers enjoy every day.

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