The Earth’s core is thought to be composed mainly of iron. Iron is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. The most common iron ore is hematite (Fe2O3), from which iron metal is obtained by reduction with carbon. Iron is also found in minerals such as taconite and magnetite, which are commonly seen as black sand along beaches and stream banks.
Perhaps the first use of iron ore was for the bright red and yellow colors that characterize many iron ores. Even today, iron ores are used in a minor way for paints and dyes. But the major use of iron has been as a metal – for tools and implements, for weapons and structures, and in modern times, for all the steel goods (automobiles, trains, skyscrapers, wind turbines, and more) made from Minnesota’s iron mining industry.
On the educational pages to follow, you’ll learn about Minnesota’s iron mining history, the iron mining process itself, current operations and the many ways in which Minnesota’s iron mining industry is being environmentally conscious right as the iron is mined.