I just found this neat little documentary about the forced abandonment of old Hibbing to allow for the expansion of Oliver Iron Mining Co.'s Hull-Rust Mahoning open pit iron mine - circa 1920. I'm in the process of digging a little deeper into the region's past, and have just returned from the fantastic archives at the Minnesota Historical Society where I was able to locate many of the original affidavits.
"Because the Bonita Mine was a Very Excellent Mine"
-From Jones Vs. People, 118 Colo. 271, 272 (Colo. 1948)
I recently had the opportunity to visit an abandoned fluorspar (or fluorite) mine in New Mexico. The Bonita Mine is located in the Zuni Mountains, about 1.5 hours west of Albuquerque. This area has been home to both extensive logging activity, as well as mining of both copper deposits and the aforementioned fluorspar.
As an archaeologist by trade, my labor is often focused on searching for things that we did not know existed. Sometimes this investigative work produces the identification of isolated artifacts and complex sites, but more often than not these surveys produce negative results – meaning despite our best efforts, nothing was found.
Trying to uncover missing narratives of our past is one of the more enjoyable aspects of conducting historic research. Similar to archaeology, an objective of conducting research is hoping to uncover a narrative that may have been forgotten, or in some cases intentionally hidden from the public. However, like archaeology, this research, too, often fails to produce any smoking guns.
A mine remains active long after it stops producing. Scary stuff from Nova Scotia. Really interesting write up from the CBC here.
I scanned this map because I think it is a great representation of an historical mining landscape. Both extremely convoluted and strikingly organized, with geologic and political boundaries meshing together in a geometric cacophony. Maps like these illuminate how interpreting the historical mining landscape can be especially challenging, due to the scale of extraction and the overlapping of ownership from one claim to the next. This historical complexity often obfuscates some of the envirotechnical activity that created the landscapes we see today, as well as makes tracking the environmental legacies within these landscapes troublesome.
I'm in the process of testing a hypothesis on the heritage process, visibility, and remembering in the Mesabi Range. I believe that there is a much higher percentage of historic mines that are still visible on the landscape compared to the ghost plants, and this is one of the reasons why the mining pits have tended to dominate the contemporary heritage discourse of the Lake Superior Iron District, even though their environmental footprint may have been less impactful than the invisible ghost plants.
To test this assumption, I've been surveying aerial imagery of the Mesabi Range to see how many former mines and their waste piles are visible on the landscape, as well as their associated ghost plants. In doing so, I've become amazed by how many water bodies are dotted across the post-industrial landscape - granted this is the land of 10,000 lakes - and thought this would be a good time to post a rhetorical question that I continue to dwell on - How do you interpret a mine that has become a lake?
A somewhat cheesy video from the 1950s - but an interesting one nonetheless - as it depicts the push to make taconite a household name and a national mainstay. Some nice footage of the pelletizing process to boot:
John Baeten holds a PhD in Industrial Heritage and Archaeology from Michigan Technological University. His research aims to contextualize the environmental legacies of industrialization as meaningful cultural heritage.