After decades of production, the Cliffs’ Empire Mine ceases operations.
Wednesday, August 3, 2016 marked the last day of the production of iron ore pellets at the Cliffs’ Empire Mine in Ishpeming, MI. The mine has played a crucial role in the local economy for decades. According to Cliffs Natural Resources via Earth Observatory, the Empire Mine and the Tilden Mine (which is still in full operating mode) together contributed nearly $775 million of economic impact and provided 1,600 jobs. In 2015 alone, the mines supplied 1,297 jobs and the total economic impact was $656 million, according to a Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. fact sheet. As an ode to the Empire and those who ran it, here are some interesting facts about its history:
- In 1844, government surveyors stumbled upon layers of Precambrian (very old) rock containing iron ore
- This area the surveyors discovered is known as the Marquette Iron Range (known as the Negaunee Iron Formation by geologists)
- The Marquette Iron Range has been one of the most productive sources of iron in the nation
- Starting in the 1950s, miners had to dig lower and utilize new methods of extracting lower-grade iron ore due to the fact that the easily accessible chunks of rock near or on the surface was gone; actually figuring out how to use the lower-grade iron ore was achieved as well
- See an eagle’s eye view of the Empire and Tilden Mines here
- Cliffs (originally called the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company) is the largest producer of iron ore in the United States – it’s Empire Mine produces 5.5 million tons of magnetite each year
- 1963 marks the birth of the Empire Mine
- The main use of iron ore is its role in steel production
Information courtesy of: WDIO.com (article via The Mining Journal), Cliffs Natural Resources, Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. fact sheet, Iron fact sheet. Visit Earth Observatory for an awesome image of an aerial view of the Tilden Mine and the Empire Mine. Some information used in this post was also provided by Earth Observatory.
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