After being closed for more than a year, a new viewpoint offering sweeping vistas of an operating iron ore mine opens this weekend in Hibbing, Minn.
The site overlooks the Hull Rust Mahoning Mine, a giant eight-mile-long open pit that's nearly four miles across at its widest point. It's been dubbed the "Grand Canyon of the North."
In October 2017, the old viewpoint overlooking the pit was closed to make way for Hibbing Taconite, which wanted to access the ore underneath the site.
The new site, on top of an old waste rock pile, provides an even more commanding view, said Beth Pierce, who directs the Iron Range Tourism Bureau.
"You can see 30-40 miles out in any direction," said Pierce. "You can see the city of Hibbing. And, of course, you can see Hibbing Taconite's operations."
Pierce said the new viewpoint is one of the few places to see an active mine site on the Iron Range. The giant haul trucks look tiny on the floor of the open pit below, she said.
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Visitors to the new site can also get an up-close look at old mining equipment, including a production truck and shovel buckets.
The giant mine pit was gradually formed over the years by nearly 40 mining operations, both underground and open pit. The Hull Rust Mine began mining operations in 1896. Hibbing Taconite continues to mine today.
Having to move infrastructure like the mine view site, to make way for mining, is nothing new on the Iron Range. Indeed, the city of Hibbing itself was moved a century ago to make room for the expanding mine pit. Buildings were mounted on steel wheels and moved two miles; some buildings were cut in half during the move.
And two years ago, U.S. Highway 53 was moved to clear the way for Cleveland Cliffs to expand its United Taconite operation between Eveleth and Virginia. That reroute includes a new bridge over an abandoned, water-filled iron ore pit that's the highest in the state.
About 25,000 people a year visited the old Hibbing mine view site, from all around the world, Pierce said. She expects even more at the new venue.