Posted by: mesabimisadventures | June 16, 2010

Terra Progredimur – From the Earth We Prosper

The billboard welcoming visitors to Wabush, Newfoundland and Labrador proudly proclaims  “From the Earth We Prosper.”  From any house on the hillside of Wabush, Wabush Mines and the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) are within view.  As you cross the bridge over The Narrows, Labrador City greets you with the iconic image of a shovel emptying a load into a production truck.  Their motto?  The Naskapi word “Kamistiatussett” or “Land of the Hard Working People.”

Wabush and its neighbor across the bridge were developed in the late 1950s as settlements for the miners arriving to scoop up the vast, rich deposits of iron ore.  From a spruce-filled wilderness to a home for thousands of people, all courtesy of mining.  The residents recognize their origin and celebrate their contribution to the rest of the world.

On the Iron Range of Minnesota however, there seem to be some folks who struggle to be proud that the Range’s roots, trunk and several branches are the result of natural resource extraction.  Hibbing has adopted the motto “We’re Ore and More” but there are still some who choose the less-than-celebratory version “We’re More than Ore.”  If you do a Google search, you’ll discover that there are still some folks who didn’t get the memo.

“We’re more than ore” sounds like a desperate plea for attention and a little like we’re the embarrassed high-schooler whose mom is showing our new boyfriend pictures of us in the tub as a baby.  Why deny, Peter?

Unless you directly work for a Mine or are a direct supplier/vendor/contractor, you may not think that the Mines are significant.  After all, you don’t need them for your job.  Or do you?

A recent article in the Duluth News Tribune (that unfortunately is now archived) discussed the plan for a local Mine to mine underneath Highway 53.  A 1960 agreement between the Mine and the State of Minnesota places responsibility of the move on MNDOT.  The comments were fiery (as expected) and a local columnist detailed his not-so-in-favor-of thoughts about the subject in the Hibbing Daily Tribune (luckily his blog is still free, considering the paper isn’t!).  However, the commenters and the commentator have too easy of a target (seriously, have you seen Avatar? Cue “The Imperial March” the next time you see a mining employee) and there appears to be a lack of appreciation for the undeniably positive impact of these Mines on our economy up here.  Six degrees of separation between your job and the Mines, wanna’ play?

I will agree that the Range needs to have a plan in place for the eventual end of mining and having survived the last year on the Range, I will agree that the downswings can be scary, but where in the U.S. last year wasn’t it scary?  It’s a finite resource, nothing too complicated to figure out there.  However, in the meantime, why not embrace and accept and celebrate that we are blessed to live somewhere with resources that people all across the globe want to get their hands on?  Heck, they even give us money for it.   How many jobs are being supported by money that originated somewhere far, far away?  Thanks to a certain generation I will not name, other than to say their initials are B.B., our nation lost a lot of its ability to make people in other countries pay us for a product, but guess what?  They’re still paying us for the raw materials (maniacal laugh).

Mining is at the bottom or the top of the economic food chain, however you choose to look at it.  Without those raw materials, we have nothing.  Every single person reading this needs mining, unless you’re omniscient, in which case, please step out of my head.  The Range needs mining for the awesome-paying jobs that span a lot of disciplines, for the taconite taxes that we fight to keep up here, and to form our backbone whether we like to admit that or not.  Even a powerhouse (pun intended) like Minnesota Power relies on the Mines with the six mines drawing a lion’s share of their electricity.  The State of Minnesota needs mining for the school and university trusts.  The Nation needs mining so that perhaps we won’t import every single thing we own.

Repeat after me, all ye’ Rangers (of which I wish I could be, but I was born in Duluth, not my fault) – I live on the Iron Range of Minnesota and not only am I okay with that, but I am proud of that.  I am proud of the folks who came before me who built these communities with their hands and colored them with their souls.  I am proud of the miners who built the US through their hard work, who supplied the ore that grew our Nation’s largest cities, formed our farmers’ tools, and sailed our grandfathers to Iwo Jima.  I am proud of our present and I am hopeful for our future.  I am a Ranger and that’s okay.



  1. I have to agree. I’ve been here 33 years, so I guess I’m only a sort of north-of-the-Ranger. My sister lives in a similar lakes-n-woods area of Northern Wisconsin, and I tell you, the area looks similar, but the jobs and pay and opportunities suck. Even the service jobs around the Range, cleaning cabins for example, have been better paying jobs than those where my sister lives.

  2. Me too, ya know!

  3. My sentiments exactly but you can put it into words so much better than I. Nice job!

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