History of taconite and building on the future of the industry | www.WDIO.com

History of taconite and building on the future of the industry

Updated: February 10, 2021 06:27 PM
Created: February 10, 2021 04:29 PM

Erie Mining Company helped pioneer the taconite process the mines use today. And the folks who worked there, are really proud of that. 

"We had people from Erie who were from all around the world. Indonesia, Holland, Germany, and from various walks of life. All had good stories," remembered James Westbrook, a former employee and member of the Erie Mining History Project team.

Now 150 of those stories are in paper and audio file form at the Hoyt Lakes Public Library. They were delivered there on Wednesday morning by members of the project team.

Sue Sowers, library director, said, "We're so excited to have these. It will be fantastic to add to our collection. I can't wait to listen and read them. Many of my family members worked there."

These memories helped create the book, Taconite, New Life for Minnesota's Iron Range: the History of Erie Mining Company. "The whole book was built around the interviews," recalled Tom Michels, another team member.

Lynn Niemi, a team member who worked in accounting, said she has read some of the histories. "You do feel connected. Sometimes you wonder when you work at a large place, you have your own little environment. And it brings out the whole picture of what was happening at Erie Mining Company."

Her husband, Tom, described the book as a nice summary. But if you want to really dig into the history of Erie, you should dig into the interviews.

There are voices of employees, spouses, civic leaders, and community members, covering the entire life of the mine, until it's closure in 2001.

Mike Sterk, another team member, added, "It's pretty special for people in the community to be able to listen to family member and friends."

Further west, in Coleraine, researchers are working on ways to move the industry into the future. Shashi Rao is a metallurgical engineer at NRRI's minerals lab. "Our lab has a unique testing facility, where we can evaluate different binders."

Right now, the industry uses bentonite to hold the fine particles of iron together. But it introduces impurities in the process, which won't work as the industry moves further into the new generation of steelmaking with electric arc furnaces. Rao is looking at alternatives to bentonite.

Because their mission at NRRI is to support the mining companies, and help them thrive and be resilient, Rao added.

The oral histories are going to be donated to seven sites by the end of the month:

Hoyt Lakes Public Library

Aurora City Library

Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm

Ely-Winton Historical Society in Ely

Cook County Historical Society in Grand Marais

UMD Kathryn A. Martin Library in Duluth

St. Louis County Historical Society in Duluth

You can buy the book as well on Amazon or https://www.thehistorypeople.org/product-page/erie-mining-book-1

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