125 years of iron ore from Hibbing’s Mahoning mine

Seen at a distance from the Hull Rust Mine View in Hibbing, this 44-star U.S. flag marks the precise location where the first shovel full of iron ore was dug from the Mahoning Mine. The actual location stood 170 feet above this spot, demonstrating the enormous magnitude of iron mining activity north of Hibbing. (PHOTO: Phil Larson)

At sunrise on Friday, July 3 workers raised a 44-star American flag at the edge of the the Hull Rust Mahoning Pit in Hibbing. The historic flag commemorated the day in 1895 when the first shovel lifted iron ore from the Mahoning Pit.

“That open pit of course started with a single scoop of ore 125 years ago today, about 170 feet above the flag,” said geologist Phil Larson. “Hibbing Taconite can trace its origin in a sense to the Mahoning Ore Company, and in fact is still mining taconite ore from the original Mahoning Ore Company lease.”

Hibbing Taconite is currently idled until staff returns July 27 and production resumes Aug. 6. That fact, coupled with COVID-19 health restrictions, prevented a more elaborate ceremony. But the flag, raised at sunrise and retired at sundown, remained visible from the Hull Rust Mine View.

Steam shovels dig iron ore at the Mahoning Mine circa 1895. (MN Historical Society)

A mine that made history

The pit north of Hibbing represents one of the most important mining sites in American history. The rich hematite iron from the mines of Hibbing fed both world wars, including more than 75 percent of the ore required to fight World War II.

The enormous value of the ore mined from Hibbing made the village ground zero for a colorful political battle in the 1910s and ’20s. During several legal and political showdowns between former Mayor Victor Power and U.S. Steel the village gained the nickname “The Biggest Village in the World.”

The mining activity during the early 20th Century grew so frenzied that U.S. Steel’s Oliver Iron Mining Company negotiated to move the village of Hibbing two miles south beginning in 1917. Over the next several decades the whole town moved to its current location next to the former village of Alice.

Today, Hibbing Taconite continues to mine lower grade iron ore for steel production. International steel giant Arcelor-Mittal owns a majority interest while U.S. Steel and Cleveland-Cliffs own minority stakes.

Officers of the Mahoning Mine stand outside the original mine office in 1895. This office stood 170 feet above the location of the flag raised on July 3, 2020. (PHOTO: MN Historical Society)

NOTE: This story will run in the Tuesday, July 7, 2020 Hibbing Daily Tribune.

This iconic image from New Deal photographer John Vachon depicts the Hull Rust Mahoning Mine in August 1941 just before the U.S. entry into World War II. (John Vachon)


Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.