A Geospatial Approach to Uncovering the Hidden Waste Footprint of Lake Superior’s Mesabi Iron Range

Jextractive industries and societyohn Baeten, Nancy Langston, and Don Lafreniere recently published an article titled: “A Geospatial Approach to Uncovering the Hidden Waste Footprint of Lake Superior’s Mesabi Iron Range” published in The Extractive Industries and Society.

The article is available for download until January 26, 2017 at the following link:  https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1UAjI,oMyQ5uEu

Article Abstract: “For decades, the Lake Superior Iron District produced a significant majority of the world’s iron used in steel production. Chief among these was the Mesabi Range of northern Minnesota, a vast deposit of hematite and magnetic taconite ores stretching for over 100 miles in length. Iron ore mining in the Mesabi Range involved three major phases: direct shipping ores (1893–1970s), washable ores (1907– 1980s), and taconite (1947–current). Each phase of iron mining used different technologies to extract and process ore. Producing all of this iron yielded a vast landscape of mine waste. This paper uses a historical GIS to illuminate the spatial extent of mining across the Lake Superior Iron District, to locate where low- grade ore processing took place, and to identify how and where waste was produced. Our analysis shows that the technological shift to low-grade ore mining placed new demands on the environment, primarily around processing plants. Direct shipping ore mines produced less mine waste than low-grade ore mines, and this waste was confined to the immediate vicinity of mines themselves. Low-grade ore processing, in contrast, created more dispersed waste landscapes as tailings mobilized from the mines themselves into waterbodies and human communities.”


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