Hull Rust Mine and Overlook, Minnesota

The consolidated network of pits north of Hibbing, called the Hull Rust Mahoning Pit, is the largest iron mine pit in the nation. Known as the Grand Canyon of the North, the pit is 3.5 miles wide and 500 feet deep, has been worked for over 100 years, and is still active. Peak production was in the 1940s, when 1/4 of the ore for the entire U.S. steel industry came out of this hole. The pit is the largest in the Mesabi Range district of northern Minnesota, an area that has been heavily transformed by more than a century of iron mining. Larger even then the pit though is the tailings impoundment north of the pit. The mine is operated by the Hibbing Taconite Company, and owned by the steel companies that consume most of the taconite (iron pellets) that it produces, like US Steel and ArcelorMittal, the operators of the three big steel mills on the southern end of Lake Michigan, and others. The Hull Rust Mine overlook provides panoramic views of this engineered landscape, which extends for miles, with lakes, mounds, benches and cliffs, on such a scale that is hard to reconcile it as being made by humans. The overlook has some nicely rotting signage, which seems to echo the crumpled disintegration of the landscape below. A walking trail passes by machinery marked with canted plaques, and a small visitor building on the edge has a pleasant gift shop.

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