Iron ore mining operations in Ely began with the opening of the Chandler mine in 1888. The industry grew quickly with the opening of the Pioneer Mine in 1889, Zenith in 1892, and the Savoy and Sibley mines in 1899. Originally, miners used pick axes, shovels and wheel barrels to move the ore into waiting ore cars, but as the ore body was recovered, operations shifted underground. Ore from the mines were shipped by rail to the ports in Duluth and loaded into lake freighters bound for steel mills in the east. By 1901, Minnesota was the leading iron ore producing state. In total, eleven mines opened and closed in the Ely area, producing more than 86 million long* tons of ore over an 80-year period.
Today, visitors can view the Pioneer Mine Shaft House and read about the history of mining while taking a stroll around the Trezona Trail. The trail circles Miners Lake, was formed after the closing of the Pioneer mine in 1967.
*A long ton equals 2,240 pounds vs a U.S. short ton, which equals 2,000 pounds