This paper explores the ways that communities, the iron industry, and the state responded to iron mining development in Minnesota’s Mesabi Range. The Mesabi Range in northern Minnesota was the most productive iron range in the United States from 1895 to today, producing more than 3.8 billion tons of iron ore. The removal of all of this iron produced tremendous changes to the landscape, which communities in the Mesabi Range had to negotiate.
As open pit mines expanded during the 1910s, all but two communities were forced to relocate to make way for an expanding mine. Archival records reveal that communities contested mining displacements, yet this social negotiation over mining is relatively absent in current interpretative discourse. Instead, state agencies have reimagined the mining landscape, filling former mines with trout and removing much of the built environment in an effort to promote a recreational landscape atop a postindustrial one. These actions have fostered a distorted collective memory of the region’s past and an industrial landscape where historical features are treated as recreational areas rather than cultural resources.
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