For more than half a century, Minnesota's iron ranges supplied the iron ore
that fed the nation's steel mills. First mined in the 1880s, the three ranges
- the Vermilion, Mesabi and Cuyuna - provided the economic underpinnings of
northeastern Minnesota. They also drew waves of immigrant workers, creating
the state's most diverse melting pot and a distinctive cultural legacy that
still defines the region. Although mining has declined since the 1960s, the
mines and the tight-knit communities they fostered have developed a new industry
focused on cultural-heritage tourism.