You may have heard of PolyMet’s plans to bring the former Erie plant back to life. But do you know about its important role in our region’s great mining history? Let’s take a step back in time …
Born of taconite
During the 1940s, a time when high-grade iron ore (ore that can be shipped in its natural state) along the Mesabi Iron Range was decreasing, the mining industry looked to a new source of iron ore: taconite.
In 1953, after years of taconite research, Erie Mining Company began constructing a processing facility to extract iron ore particles from taconite. People were recruited nationwide – from as far as Texas – to complete the $300-million construction project. At the peak of construction in 1965, there were more than 6,000 people on the payroll.
The Erie Mining Company, which was later purchased by LTV Steel Mining Company, began operations in 1957 and produced more than 312 million tons of taconite pellets. Employment during operations peaked in 1970, with more than 3,000 workers. The city of Hoyt Lakes, located six miles south of the plant, was created to support the mine.
The operation closed in 2001 because it was no longer able to produce taconite pellets of competitive quality or cost. Around 1,400 people lost their jobs – jobs that paid living-wage salaries. The operation was the oldest continuously running taconite mine on the Iron Range.
That might have been the end of the Erie plant, but PolyMet bought the facility in 2005. Today, modern mining techniques are creating the opportunity to not just reuse the Erie plant, but also bring it up to date and move Minnesota’s resource production into the future. We can now mine and process one of Minnesota’s most important resources of copper and nickel – located right here on the Iron Range – in a way that is environmentally responsible and economically sustainable.
Want to play a part in making Minnesota mining history? Here are eight actions you can take to help move our project forward.