It's essentially an enormous hole in the ground. But it's ours. And it is the biggest one of its kind in the world. Northern Minnesota is home to the largest open-pit, iron-ore mine in the world. In Hibbing, you can tour the new viewing area of the Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine, which dates to the late 1800s and is still in operation to this day.

There is no charge to marvel at the expanse of the mine and the size of the machines that are on display along a winding walkway through the site. There appear to be the beginnings of an interpretive center building as well.

iron ore mine truck
Roy Koenig/TSM

An on-site plaque claims the mine "has been called the 'Grand Canyon of the North' - a fitting title for the world's largest open-pit iron-ore mine...Today this enormous pit measures 1.5-by-3.5 miles..."

"The Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine developed rapidly in the early 1900s, when demand was high for iron and steel to build railroads, bridges, and skyscrapers. In its peak production years during World Wars I and II, this pit supplied as much as one-fourth of all the iron ore mined in the United States."


I am a Hibbing High School grad and felt compelled to review some of its histories during a 4th of July swing through the Iron Range. That included a stop at old Hibbing, just down the road from the mine view.

The town was founded in 1893 and had grown to about 16,000 by 1910. But a big change was needed, according to a monument on the site, "By 1919, as the demand for iron ore increased, expanded mining operations surrounded the city on three sides, forcing a move two miles south to a new location. By 1950 the move was complete and north Hibbing ceased to exist."


old city street
Roy Koenig/TSM

Street signs still remain along with a few crumbling sidewalks. Otherwise, it is very overgrown with grass and weeds, although a disc golf course and a campground draw in a few visitors.

Hibbing street sign
Roy Koenig/TSM

On another mining-related note, Virginia, Minnesota boasts the tallest bridge in the state. The 200-foot tall bridge spans a mine and opened in 2017. It became necessary when a mining company reclaimed land it had loaned to the state for a highway.

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