The 19th Annual Conference of the Mining History Association was held in Chisholm, Minnesota, June 12-15, 2008. Chisholm and nearby Hibbing are located in the heart of the famous Mesabi Iron Range. The Range was discovered in 1866 and ore shipments began in 1892. After 120 years of production mines are still going strong. In 2010, over 35 million metric tons of iron taconite pellets were produced. While the Mesabi has had its ups and downs, it has successfully transitioned from dozens of underground mines to large open pits, and from high-grade direct shipping iron ore to iron pellets produced from low-grade taconite. The future looks bright for the Iron Range with several copper-nickel mines and a direct reduced iron nugget plant in various stages of development.
The Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine Overlook Park on the north side of Hibbing was the venue for the Welcoming Reception. In addition to the huge historic pit once called the Grand Canyon of the Mesabi, the modern operations of the Hibbing Taconite Company can be viewed from the park. Attendees were greeted by Chisholm Mayor Mike Jugovich, Hibbing Councilor, Dan Marich, and Marty Vadis from the Minnesota Division of Lands and Minerals. The delicious refreshments included a number of the local ethnic specialties.
Program sessions and the other social functions were held at Ironworld, now called the Minnesota Discovery Center, just outside Chisholm. In addition to excellent conference facilities, Ironworld includes indoor and outdoor heritage exhibits and the Iron Range Research Center, a destination in its own right for genealogy and history buffs. Attendees enjoyed rides on the museum’s electric trolley which runs to the nearby Glen location, an old underground mining site.
The Conference tours included visits to historic Hill-Annex open pit mine on the Mesabi Range and Soudan and Pioneer underground mines on the Vermilion Range. Historic mining equipment on display at the Minnesota Museum of Mining and a memorial to E. J. Longyear, developer of the diamond drill, were seen in Chisholm. A number of local museums and mine viewpoints could be visited in other Range towns.
Those arriving at the Duluth International Airport had the opportunity to see the ore and taconite docks and the coal loading facilities in the large Duluth, MN/Superior, WI harbor, the end of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Harbor tour boats provide a good way to see all the sights. From Duluth the scenic North Shore Drive follows the shoreline of Lake Superior with its many waterfalls and rugged rock formations. At Two Harbors, an ore dock remains from the days of underground mining on the Vermilion Iron Range. At Silver Bay, the first great taconite concentrating, pelletizing, and shipping facility can be easily seen from the highway. Originally built in 1957 by the Reserve Mining Company, it is now operated by Cleveland Cliffs. Farther up the Drive is Taconite Harbor, the pellet shipping facility for the Erie Mining Company (now closed).Hibbing has the distinction of being the hometown of singer Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman before a name change), Jeno Paulucci who brought Chung King Chinese food to the dinner tables of millions of Americans (his egg roll technology is still used to make pizza rolls), and the Greyhound Bus Company. All three are memorialized in some way in Hibbing. To the east, the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Eveleth, MN. To the west, Judy Garland’s birthplace is located in Grand Rapids, MN. There’s plenty to see and do in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Mesabi and Vermilion Iron Ranges.
Ironman Memorial, Chisholm, Minnesota.
Modern taconite mining on the mighty Mesabi.
Spectacular remains of the rich open pit direct shipping iron ore mines. Ironworld (the Minnesota Discovery Center) is at the top left overlooking the mines.