The Soudan Mine on the Vermilion Range is the oldest and deepest iron mine in Minnesota. Its opening in 1884 set the stage for Minnesota’s reign as the country’s leading iron ore producer.
In 1880 Charlemagne Tower, a wealthy Pennsylvania industrialist, purchased some 20,000 acres of iron-rich land in northern Minnesota for development. Within two years he had incorporated the Minnesota Iron Company and gained control of the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad to ship ore to his docks in Two Harbors. More than 100 experienced miners were brought in from Michigan to work the Soudan Mine site. Originally seven open pits, the mine suffered frequent accidents from falling rocks, forcing operations underground in the 1890s.
Ownership of the Soudan Mine passed to the Oliver Iron Mining Division of U.S. Steel Corporation in 1901. After shipping ore every year but one, the Soudan fell victim to technological advances and a changing economy. By the time it closed in 1962, the mine had reached a depth of almost 2,500 feet, with tunnels that ran nearly a mile to the east and west. Today the Soudan Mine is the country’s only underground iron ore mine open to the public. Unlike most underground mines, the Soudan, with its solid rock walls, has no supporting timbers in its mineshafts. Near the mine entrance the engine house (1901), crusher house (1904), drill shop (1917) and dry house (1925) still stand.