Pioneer Iron Mine – Ely, MN
N 47° 54.707 W 091° 51.698
15T E 585061 N 5307122
Quick Description: The Pioneer Iron Mine was a major employer in Ely from 1888 to 1967.
Location: Minnesota, United States
Date Posted: 5/28/2011 7:02:55 AM
Waymark Code: WMBJZ6
The Pioneer Mine was a major employer in Ely from 1888 to 1967; the water tower and the A shaft headframe still provide a landmark visible from many places in town. Two interpretive signs tell about its history:
“The Pioneer Vermilion Iron Mining Company opened the Pioneer Mine in 1888 and began shipping ore the following year. When Oliver Iron Mining Company leased the Pioneer in 1898, it was producing over 500,000 tons annually. Eventually, it was considered the richest of Minnesota’s underground mines. It closed in 1967, not because the ore body was exhausted, but because underground mining was so labor-intensive. With a 100-man workforce, open pit mines produced about 5,000,000 tons of ore annually. The underground Pioneer operations employed approximately 600 miners to produce 1,000,000 tons annually.
“Working conditions were extremely hazardous. There was constant danger that water would soak the ground above, break through and run into the mine, sometimes to a depth of 200 feet, killing all those not fast enough to escape. Cave-ins, mud-slides, and premature dynamite blasts also caused injuries or fatalities.
“Remaining mine structures reflect the Pioneer Mine’s “glory days.” They include the captains’ and miners’ dries where employees changed from work clothes and showered; the shaft house which provided weather protection; the stack, built in 1902 to create a draft for boilers powering early steam hoists; the 1927 engine house, powering later electric hoists, the steel head frame, and a water tower.”
Another sign gives some information about the Pioneer Mine and pit that is now Miner’s Lake beneath the mine buildings. Its text reads:
“Miner’s Lake Pit. In 1887, the Pattison brothers – Martin and William – gold seekers turned timber cruisers, discovered the once heavily pine timbered property that is the Pioneer Mine site. A property lease was gained in 1886 by the Pioneer Iron Mine Company from which the mine gets its name. By 1889 the first shipment of ore made its way to the port of Two Harbors on the Duluth and Iron Range Railway.
“While some of the Pioneer ore is similar to others in hardness, some is soft and earth-like and when wet from groundwater becomes difficult to mine. This created great dangers from mud slides threatening and taking lives of many courageous miners. There still exists substantial deposits of unmined Blue Hematite containing as much as 63% iron.
“Along with the mine at Soudan, the Pioneer Mine buildings and A shaft headframe are the last structures remaining as an example of extensive underground mining operations and the hardy men who mined the Iron Range.
“Much of the pit lake you see today is the result of cave-ins and material settling, although there was early open pit mining in the area. Five separate mines were located in the general vicinity. They are: Pioneer, Zenith, Savoy, North Chandler, and South Chandler.”
Below this text is a list of the statistics of each mine in Ely.
Iron ore shipments to date – 41,112,587 tons
Last shipment – 1967
Operated by – Pioneer Iron Company – 1888-1897, Oliver Mining Company – 1889-1951, Oliver Mining Company (U.S. Steel Corp.) – 1952-1953, U.S. Steel Corp. (Minnesota Ore Operations) – 1954-1967
Iron ore shipments to date – 21,561,128 tons
Last shipment – 1964
Iron ore shipments to date – 1,866,378 tons
Last shipment – 1916
North Chandler Mine
Iron ore shipments to date – 9,505,758 tons
Last shipment – 1942
South Chandler Mine
Iron ore shipments to date – 2,396,154 tons
Last shipment - 1957
There is a photo next to the text showing the rail lines with the mine in the background.
The complex is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mine Type: Abandoned Mine
Mineral Collecting: Not Known
Material Mined: Non-Precious Metal
Operation: Underground Mine
Surface Features: Yes
Visitors should not attempt to go in any of the locked buildings. There is some broken glass and rusty pieces of metal on the ground that should be avoided.
Any associated website: [Web Link]
Any Other information: Not listed
Optional photograph welcomed.