Wisconsin Range viewpoints run thicker than cheese

The debate over potential iron mining in Wisconsin has turned the gaze of many a Wisconsin media outlet upon my native Minnesota Iron Range, where iron mining has gone on for more than a century. Some paint us as a picturesque paradise poised for economic strength, some call us a charming region of boom and bust, and some paint us as some sort of mining-addicted hellscape. They are all wrong. We are a combination of those things.

Here’s what they’re saying in Green Bay. It’s a long story with several Iron Rangers quoted, mostly saying how dependent the region is on mining. My friend Andy sent this to me, mostly because the video of the Iron Range mining student is a choice representative of the contemporary Iron Range accent.

My only comment is that mining employment remains a distant minority of the employment on the Iron Range. It is only because those jobs are among the region’s best and most available to people with a two year degree that we perceive the dependence. A perceived dependence is still a dependence, so long as we see the world the same way.


  1. The number of people employed in the mines may make it a minority, but mining is still the economic cornerstone of northern MN.


  2. Still so ready to dispose of an multifaceted economy. Perhaps we should look for workable alternate (value added?) solutions rather than copying and pasting the environmental party agenda line with questionable copy and paste research by those groups. It simply doesn’t pay the bills and yes, mining has built and still supports this economy. I imagine we all cater to those who pay our bills.

  3. I think “cornerstone” is a good way to describe mining in northern Minnesota. It is the initial reason that people came, an important part of the foundation, and if it were suddenly removed we’d be in a world of hurt. New mining would be a continuation of this.

    My frustration comes with the fact that we appear not to be learning anything from the limitations of a mining-based economy. 120 years and we’re still looking to the vitality of the mines to describe our own prosperity. I’d argue that the people who worked the hardest and gave up the most to work in the mines (the pioneers and early immigrants) did so not out of hopes that their children would do exactly as they did, only for more money and in more safety, but for the hope that their children could choose their vocation, make their own way. Really, I think that’s all most people want for their kids. Mining today is a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous career than ever before, but I worry about any economy that holds this out as the only viable option for another generation, especially after having been burned by that thinking not once but several times in living memory.

    My frustration with the anti-mining side is the lack of viable alternatives to mining as the aforementioned economic cornerstone. You can’t convince people to give up their livelihoods or the potential for jobs for nothing.

    In the big picture, and I’m talking the eyes of history here, the jobs vs. environment argument will be regarded as a waste of time. What will be regarded as a success or failure is how we used the prosperity that mining offered, and what that meant not just environmentally, but socially, culturally, aesthetically and even spiritually — if that’s not too hippy dippy to think about.

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