CHISHOLM—It just seemed kinda’ natural.
The Iron Mining Association of Minnesota (IMA) headquarters on November 1 moved to the center of northeastern Minnesota iron ore mining country in Chisholm.
For decades, the headquarters had been located in Duluth.
But the association that represents iron ore mining, mining vendors, suppliers, and others who support the industry, packed up years of history in downtown Duluth and headed north to the Iron Range.
“I think it was just time to get back to our roots here on the Iron Range,” Kristen Vake, IMA executive director said. “Obviously, this is where the iron mining happens.”
The new IMA headquarters are within the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation’s Mineland Reclamation building at Minnesota Discovery Center.
The IMA is leasing space within the building from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation.
The Mineland Reclamation building serves as the center of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation mining activities and programs.
Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation programs and operations are funding by taconite taxes paid by northeastern Minnesota iron mining companies.
The Mineland Reclamation building in recent years was revamped, is equipped with the latest in technology, and is a couple hundred yards from the former Glen Mine Pit and popular Redhead Mountain Bike Park.
The mountain bike park winds around and through the former natural iron ore mine pit.
“It’s a perfect fit having the IMA office at Mineland Reclamation,” Linda Johnson, of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation property development and mining said. “Number one, it’s in Chisholm and number two it’s in a building that is centrally located.”
It’s the ideal location for the IMA to showcase and tell the story of iron ore mining, Vake said.
“It’s the mining history with the discovery center there, the mineland reclamation building alone, and now with the Redhead being right there it just all felt right to have the Iron Mining Association in this location because of all the mining history,” Vake said. “I think we were really lucky it all worked out. It’s been an awesome space. It’s all just been really good.”
A large meeting room provides space for IMA board meetings and hosting other large groups, something that was lacking in the former Duluth office.
The Mineland Reclamation building also hosts meetings of the Mineland Vision Partnership, a group of mining, community, private business, and government leaders who work in collaboration with mining, government, business and community interests on the Mesabi Range.
The partnership meets regularly to demonstrate how the mining process can create land forms to accommodate the region’s residents, environment and economy.
“We hold a lot of mining meetings here at the facility,” Johnson said. “We turned some of our industrial space that we had used to grow (tree) seedlings into meeting space. Given our economic development partners and having a good facility that’s centrally located, we will continue to be able to collaborate on initiatives from Grand Rapids to Hoyt Lakes and beyond. ”
The IMA headquarters are also steps away from a wealth of mining history on display and preserved in books, photos, and oral histories at the Iron Range Research Center within Minnesota Discovery Center and the museum itself.
The well-recognized Iron Man Statue looks across Highway 169 at Minnesota Discovery Center, the Mineland Reclamation building, Glen Mine, and Redhead Mountain Bike Park.
It all adds up to a number of pluses for the IMA, Vake said.
“We’re really focusing on telling the story of iron mining and what better way than to have somebody come to our office, see a mine pit just behind us and then be able to go check out a museum dedicated to iron mining and the history of that,” Vake said. “I just feel so lucky that we got this location because it’s just really such a great fit.”
IMA members from all over the region, state and nation who visit IMA headquarters will also be able to take advantage of mining-related assets at the site, she said.
“It makes it easy to say there’s a museum there with mining history and you can also go hike or bike in an old iron ore mine pit,” Vake said.
Travis Kolari, plant manager at United States Steel Corp.’s Minnesota Ore Operations and the new IMA board chair, says the relocation to Chisholm has been a good move.
“I would say from an advocacy perspective and the importance of things in the region, I definitely think it’s relative and it’s a new direction and a new vision for the organization, which for us is going to be building more members and making sure that we educate everybody on iron mining up here on the Iron Range,” Kolari said. “I think directionally, it was the right move. Great fit, right timing, right location.”
The IMA mission is to promote an iron ore industry that will provide long-term growth and prosperity for all stakeholders through profitability in a competitive, global market.
All told, having the association that represents iron ore mining on the Iron Range where mines have employed multiple generations of workers, supported families and communities, and pumped billions of dollars into the local, regional and state economies, is a natural fit, Vake said.
“We all just kind of agreed it was time to bring the IMA back to the Iron Range,” Vake said. “People just see it as a good fit to be on the Iron Range. The feedback has been great.”
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