Marquette Iron Range

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Lake Superior Iron Ranges

The Marquette Iron Range is a deposit of iron ore located in Marquette County, Michigan in the United States. The towns of Ishpeming and Negaunee developed as a result of mining this deposit. A smaller counterpart of Minnesota's Mesabi Range, this is one of two iron ranges in the Lake Superior basin that are in active production as of 2018. The iron ore of the Marquette Range has been mined continuously from 1847 until the present day. Marquette Iron Range is the deposit's popular and commercial name; it is also known to geologists as the Negaunee Iron Formation.[1]


The geology of the district consists of middle Precambrian rocks in the Animikie Group, which form a westward plunging syncline 33 miles (53 km) long and 3 to 6 miles (4.8 to 9.7 km) wide. The principal iron ore is found in the Negaunee Iron formation. This formation is 2,500 feet (760 m) thick near Negaunee. This is a magnetite or hematite chert. Natural ore deposits are located in synclines and up against mafic dikes. Beneficiation commenced in 1954[2] and this concentration of iron into pellets accounted for 73 percent of production by 1965. Early mining used open-pit mining methods, but was replaced with underground mining by 1880.[3]

The Marquette Iron Range was discovered in 1844 by a party of surveyors led by William A. Burt, who found that their sensitive magnetic compasses produced skewed results because of the concentration of iron in the land they were surveying.[1] Mining began in 1847. At first, the hematite iron ore of the Marquette Range was smelted with local charcoal into pig iron, but after the opening of the first Soo Canal in 1855 the iron ore itself began to be shipped down the Great Lakes from the newly developed port city of Marquette.[4]

Capitalists from Cleveland played a key role in the development of the Marquette Iron Range, and the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company acquired a controlling influence on the range by 1890.[5]

The iron range today[edit]

Cliffs Mine on Marquette Range

Until 2016, Cleveland-Cliffs’ Empire and Tilden mines continued to produce iron ore from the Marquette Range. However, the Empire Mine officially ceased production on Tuesday, August 2, 2016 and was placed in an indefinite idle state.[6] Cleveland-Cliffs ships Tilden ore by a wholly owned short-line railroad, the Lake Superior and Ishpeming, to Marquette for transport by lake freighter to steel mills in the lower Great Lakes.[7]

The Marquette Iron Range was designated as a Michigan registered historic site in 1957, listed as S-0035.[4] The Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum in Ishpeming and the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee each celebrate the history of the iron ore deposit and its miners.[8][9] A 47-mile-long (76 km)[10] hiking trail from Republic to Marquette, called the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, also provides access to the area's historical sites.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Schaetzl, Randall. "Marquette Iron Range". Michigan State University. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  2. ^ Reynolds, Terry S.; Dawson, Virginia P. (2011). Iron Will: Cleveland-Cliffs and the Mining of Iron Ore, 1847-2006. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. pp. 174–179. ISBN 978-0-8143-3511-6.
  3. ^ Anderson, Gerald (1968). "The Marquette District, Michigan". In Ridge, John D. (ed.). Ore Deposits of the United States, 1933–1967. Vol. 1. New York: American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers. pp. 509–515. OCLC 333389.
  4. ^ a b Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries. "Marquette Iron Range". Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries. Archived from the original on December 19, 2007. Retrieved October 10, 2008 – via The Michigan Historical Marker Web Site.
  5. ^ Gagnon, John (June 10, 2011). "Scholar Coauthors Book on Mining Company, Marquette Iron Range" (Press release). Houghton: Michigan Tech. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  6. ^ Barker, Alyssa (August 4, 2016). "Empire Mine Stops Production: More than 200 Employees to Be Laid Off". Upper Michigan's Source. Negaunee, MI: WLUC-TV. Retrieved November 3, 2016.
  7. ^ Brennan, Nick (June 9, 2014). "Cliffs Opening for Tours of Empire and Tilden Mines". Upper Michigan's Source. Negaunee, MI: WLUC-TV. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  8. ^ Michigan Economic Development Corporation. "Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum". Pure Michigan. Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  9. ^ Michigan Historical Center. "Michigan Iron Industry Museum". Michigan Historical Center. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  10. ^ Marquette County. "Iron Ore Heritage Trail". Travel Marquette County. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  11. ^ Denny, Brittany (June 23, 2015). "Iron Ore Heritage Bike Tours". Marquette, MI: WJMN-TV. Retrieved July 23, 2015.