ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Travel and Places»
  • Visiting North America»
  • United States

Visiting the Underground Mine of Soudan, Minnesota

Updated on August 9, 2013

Soudan underground mine is Minnesota’s deepest, oldest and richest iron ore mine. It is located by the town of Tower, in northern Minnesota, near Lake Vermilion, fifteen minutes west of Ely.

Opened in 1884, the iron ore mine provided a very high quality iron for almost a century. In 1962 the mine was closed and it is now a “museum”, where everybody can get a glimpse into the life of the men and women that waked the mine’s galleries and digged the ore. Now, the site belongs to the Minnesota State Park.

wellcome to Soudan mine

When you see this sign, you are close to the Soudan mine
When you see this sign, you are close to the Soudan mine
The mine exterior
The mine exterior


Mining is not for everyone. That’s what I thought, right from the surface, when I put a hard hat on and I got invited to squeeze into the small elevator along with other people.

The descent starts. It becomes dark and the tour guide tells us a joke then he says the elevator is going stop for a few minutes. “Don’t panic “he says. I think this is a joke too but he says “no, that’s for real”. Everybody is silent and I can hear my ears popping.

Soudan site, exterior

the tower
the tower
the crushing house (for the ore)
the crushing house (for the ore)
the iron ore goes to the freight train
the iron ore goes to the freight train


There are about thirty people in our group of tourists. All ages are represented.

The elevator is about 10 by 10 feet and now has a door, for safety. But when the mine was active, the elevator only had a chain and it held as many miners as could fit inside.

As I remain still and speechless, like everybody else, I remember that I am afraid of closed spaces. The guide once told us that, once in a while, a person suffering from claustrophobia, would asked to be brought to the surface immediately, interrupting everybody’s tour.

The Elevator Room, Still Working

The elevator shakes and squeaks, and after few minutes (only three minutes but seemed a lifetime), our bumpy ride comes to an end. It is the deepest level of the mine, the 27th, some 2341 feet below the surface.

We are let out of the elevator cage to walk on a rocky floor, with some water puddles from place to place. The guides, two young, strong men and a beautiful young girl, load us in a train that will take us to the place set up for tourists.

The ride to the stope is three-fourths mile long, through a tight tunnel that lets enough space for the wagon and a seated person. We are told to stay seated and keep the hands inside.

One tour guide tells us that the miners did not have the train, back in the day, and they walked all the way, carrying a candle on their hats that was dripping wax and was a fire hazard.

People try to take pictures with their phones but it is dark with an occasional light bulb hanging on the ceiling.

Inside the Mine

Soudan mine underground, Montana stope

We arrive to our destination. It is cold. We were told there are only 50 degrees F. inside. Most tourists wear a sweatshirt but there is this old lady in a pink top and a pair of white cropped pants.


Soon, our guides take us to a 38 steel staircase that goes up to the Montana stope. This is the place where the miners were digging the iron ore when the mine was closed. The place is huge, as large as a football field. Inside is dark and seems even colder then the tunnel. Some spots display a low light where I can see dummies in the position of working miners.
This huge space tells us everything about the miner’s work. How did they dug holes in the rocky walls to place dynamite, having to endure such loud noise that lots of them lost their hearing, and how did they carry the iron ore to the surface only to start over and over again.
The cave’s walls are made out of a rock mix, hematite and Ely stone (one of the oldest rock on Earth) plus other layers. The predominant Hematite is red or gray and the Ely stone is green. False gold, can be seen from place to place.

To offer us the full experience of a miner’s work environment, the guides turn off the lights and turn on the drill. The sound in the dark is unbearable and many of us pull out our mobile phones and I cannot stop thinking how lucky I am.

So far, we spent over forty minutes underground, in a rock, and I can feel the weight of the iron ore on my shoulders. The mine is self ventilating but I struggle with my breath. The cold air have sneaked under my fleece sweatshirt and I am almost shivering. I’m glad when we are invited back to the trains, to get up to the surface. Seeing the sunlight again feels like heaven. I could not have been a miner.

Iron Ore at the Surface

What to see at Soudan underground mine state park:

Underground mine tour
Interpretive center
High Energy physics lab

Soudan mine short history



The person that found the iron ore at Soudan, Minnesota, was George R. Stuntz. He was a businessman and explore, actually looking for gold. Stuntz presented his discovery to a banker in Duluth, named George Stone. The two of them then attracted Charlemagne Tower who formed The Minnesota Iron Company.

A crew of miners was formed under command of Captain Elisha Morcom. The first shipment of the iron ore was sent out in July 31, 1884. At this time, it was a surface mine. By 1890, the mining went underground.
The Soudan mine proved to be a “gold mine”. The iron ore was a very high quality and abundant.

The electrification of the mine in 1924 increased productivity. The ore was in high demand and the steel obtained from it was appreciated around the world.

After the WWII, the cost of digging was surpassing the profits. New mining technology was implemented all over United States. But Soudan was too deep and too hard to rich. So, it was closed in 1962. But the iron ore is still there, in large quantities.

A markerSoudan mine minnesota -
Soudan Underground Mine State Park, 1379 Stuntz Bay Rd, Soudan, MN 55782, USA
get directions

High Energy physics lab



One unique site to visit at Soudan underground mine is the High energy physics lab. Operated by the University of Minnesota and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory(Illinois), the place is located half mile underground in the depths of the mine.

The lab was created because the mine’s environment was excellent for researching and understanding neutrinos, very small particles of energy, and “dark matter”, another form of energy thought to played a big role in the creation of the universe.

The Soudan High energy lab is part of the dozen major active underground facilities around the world.

Tour Schedule


Soudan mine opens for public visiting every year from Memorial Weekend through the Labor Day. There are daily tours that start at 10am and end at 4pm, when the last group of tourists lives the surface. The tour takes about one hour and thirty minutes.

Visitors are encouraged to dress appropriately: a sweatshirt and sturdy shoes are the best.

Before leaving the ground, visitors are invited to watch a short video about the mine’s past and present and are offered hard hats. Any bags or backpacks are not to be carried along. Food and tobacco are prohibited.

More information about planning a tour can be found at www.dnr.state.mn.us

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • cameciob profile image
      Author

      cameciob 5 years ago

      Hi Pamela-anne, the Soudan is very interesting. They called it the Cadillac of the mine industry because its good working conditions. However, it was my first underground experience. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Pamela-anne profile image

      Pamela-anne 5 years ago from Miller Lake

      Interesting hub I just watched a show on caves of the world the other night would love to check out old mine thanks for sharing. take care pam.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)