PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE FOOD OR LIGHTERS IN THE CONTAINER
There were five mines that collapsed to form Miners Lake. When the mining stopped and the pumps, which kept the water out of the mines, were shut off and the tunnels were allowed to fill with water.
The mines were the Chandler (north and south), the Pioneer (A and B), the Zenith (A and B), the Sibley, and the Savoy.
Imagine yourself here in the late 1800’s. There is solid ground where the lake is now. After the gold rush fiasco – see this cache link-
the explorers headed east toward the Ely area. The Pattison Bros. of Superior, WI first leased the land for the Pioneer Mine in 1887 and the first ore was shipped out in 1889 by rail to Two Harbors, MN. It changed owners several times until 1901, when ownership was transferred to USS Corp/Oliver Mining.
There was some early open pit surface mining, but eventually underground mining was the most economical because men could work year ‘round 24 hours a day. The ore came from tunnels that were dug into the solid ground where the lake is now. When mining stopped, the tunnels naturally filled up with ground water and then tunnels collapsed. It took about ten years for the water level to get to where it is now.
The mine is 1800 ft deep, but it was mined out only to 1700 ft. There were 475 men employed, working 3 shifts, year round. The 18 levels were layered with 100 ft. of rock between each level. Because some of the tunnels went under nearby Shagawa Lake, there was ground water seepage into the mine, which was pumped out at about 1 million gallons per day. It was normal for men to be working in knee-deep water and mud. There was always a danger from mudslides, cave-ins, and dynamite blasts gone wrong.
There is still a great deal of high grade iron ore in the ground, but the high cost of underground mining,new mining processes,and foreign competition eliminated the need for this ore.
This was the last underground mine on the Vermilion Range. It closed on April Fools Day, April 1, 1967. For 79 years it provided the highest quality iron ore, which was shipped to mills in the East for production of steel to be used in the building of cities, equipment, as well as steel that was needed to fuel the World War I and II machines. Total production for the 79 years was over 39 million tons of iron ore.
The closing of the mine devastated the city of Ely. The closing meant that 35% of the city jobs were lost, so businesses suffered and the local government and school system lost 60% of its tax base, which had come from the mine.
BUILDINGS YOU SEE:
(1) The “SHAFT A” HEAD FRAME with the large sheave wheels (pulleys) that supported the cable and cage which brought the miners and supplies in and out of the mine –see this cache-
The wheels slant because the cage carried miners to the tunnels that were where the lake is now.
(2) WATER TOWER
(3) The SHAFT HOUSE –silver building below the head frame. Protected the miners from the weather as they waited for the cage to take them underground.
(4) The SMOKE STACK - for the boilers
(5) The CAPTAINS DRY- the stone building next to the smoke stack
(6) The MINERS DRY (long silver building) where the miners showered and changed clothes when coming off their shift.
If you are interested in what an actual underground iron ore mine looks like, or are interested in the history of underground iron ore mining, be sure to visit/tour the Tower-Soudan Mine Sate Park which is about 20 miles west of Ely on Highway 169.
There are 2 interpretive sign at the entrance to the driveway to the mine. You can see a picture of the collapsed tunnel area before the lake was created.
Shaft B was at this cache site:
Shaft A(here) carried miners in and out of the ground and Shaft B across the lake carried the ore out of the ground and on to waiting railroad cars.