Historic northern Minnesota state park partially closes due to flooding

Tall mining structures
The tall headframe and mine shaft of the Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine. The mine is now closed for tours after severe flooding.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

The Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park in Northern Minnesota closed tours to their underground mine due to flooding. 

Last week, the mine was hit with 7.6 inches of water in less than 24 hours. The ground near the mine was already soaked due to the constant rainfall that had persisted for days before.

The mine has pumps to remove water called a dewatering system, but last Tuesday night it was struck by lightning, cutting power to the park and stopping the pumps.

A custom pump was installed today to remove water and another is on its way to be installed Monday. 

Potential damage to the mine has yet to be assessed. As of now, they are hoping to have underground tours open again July 23. 

“The expectation at this point is that even once there are fully operating pumps on all the levels that it will take between two and three weeks to get all of the water pumped out,” said Sara Berhow with the Minnesota Department of Natural. “After all the water is pumped out, then of course they’ll need to be some assessments to see if any repairs are needed to make sure that everything and all the areas where tour participants would go is safe.”

Three levels of the mine have experienced flooding: level 12, 22 and 27. Level 12 is cleared of water as of Monday. Level 22 has two fully operating pumps. They are in the process of installing new pumps in level 27, which is submerged up to about two feet from the ceiling of that level. The pumps on that floor are not functioning due to being too submerged underwater. 

A mine closed off
Level 27 of the mine, pictured here, experienced the most flooding.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

The mine was reopened to underground tours earlier this year after closing tours due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a $9.3 million reconstruction project. 

“The staff at the park was so excited to have tours back,” Sara Berhow said. “They’re disappointed that there has been a halt in that temporarily and they're working hard to get tours back and get people back as soon as it’s safe to get people back in the mine.”

Tours of the mine above ground are still available and are free and do not require a reservation. These are hosted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.