The Peterson family is pretty proud of its mining heritage.
Three generations, Michael Peterson; his son Jim Peterson; and Jim's son Tanner Peterson; all work at United States Steel Corp.'s Minntac Mine in Mountain Iron.
To have a grandfather, son and grandson all working at the same northeastern Minnesota iron ore mine at the same time is rare.
“It's a nice feeling to have them here and follow in the footsteps and stuff,” Michael Peterson, 63, of Britt, a shift manager of field maintenance for shovels and drills said. “It's a good feeling. It's kind of nice that they're getting into a good job and career path.”
It's exciting to have three generations of the same family working at Minntac at the same time, Lukas Klemke, Minnesota Ore Operations plant manager, said.
“Minnesota Ore Operations continues to be a place where generations of family members have the ability to earn a good wage and can take pride in what we do at our plants,” Klemke said. “Pride in the fact that much of modern America that we know today has been built using the pellets made at our Minntac and Keetac locations. While this pride is evident in the numerous employees who are second, third or fourth generation miners, today it is exciting to see in the Peterson family with three generations working at Minntac in the same department at the same time. Minnesota Ore Operations is a place where kids can be proud of their mothers and fathers and strive to grow up just like them.”
Minntac Mine in 1967 began producing iron ore pellets.
It's North America's largest taconite plant.
Over Minntac's 55 years, several generations of the same families have worked at its mine, shop facilities and processing plants.
Northeastern Minnesota mining jobs are among the highest paying jobs in the region with good benefits and opportunities to advance.
“For generations, mines on the Iron Range have supported families with good paying jobs, good benefits, and the opportunity to work where we live and play,” Kristen Vake, Iron Mining Association executive director said. “The Peterson family is a prime example of that. We need to continue supporting this industry so these stories can be told for years to come.”
For the Peterson family and thousands of other miners, there's personal stories behind each of their mining careers.
Michael Peterson took a lot of shop classes and machine shop in high school at Virginia and attended vocational school in Eveleth for field maintenance work, he said.
He's worked at Minntac as a general laborer, enrolled in the diesel mechanic apprenticeship program, worked as a diesel mechanic in the mobile equipment shop, as a temporary foreman, as supervisor of the truck shop, and in field maintenance.
Peterson's brother-in-law was a shovel runner at Minntac. A few other relatives worked at Minntac and the former Erie Mining Co. near Aurora and Hoyt Lakes, said Peterson.
“It looked like a good career if you wanted to stay in the area up here,” Peterson said. “The benefits and the pay was real attractive. It's been good. I've been lucky enough not to go through any strikes, but I made it through a couple layoffs.”
Jim Peterson, 31, of rural Hibbing, is a maintenance planner in the Minntac Mine auto shop.
Like his father, he also took shop classes at Virginia High School.
Jim Peterson said he struggled a bit in high school about deciding on a career.
However, his father's work at Minntac and the education he received in diesel mechanics in high school and at Hibbing Community College, pointed him toward mining.
“I had a diesel class with Ed Roskoski who was one of my favorite teachers in school,” Jim Peterson said. “ He kind of led me down the path of diesel mechanics, I guess, and he said there's good paying jobs if you stay around here. My dad worked at Minntac, a grandfather worked for Erie Mining Co. and an uncle who worked as shovel runner at Minntac, so that kind of struck my interest. I knew I wanted to stay local around here and the mining jobs are pretty good paying jobs with benefits, so that led me down that path.”
Tanner Peterson, 20, of Buhl, about two months ago began his career as a diesel mechanic at Minntac.
Like grandfather and father, Peterson is a Virginia High School graduate and attended Central Lakes College in Staples, Minn., for diesel mechanics.
“I guess it was just kind of watching how my grandpa and dad were able to provide for their families growing up and do all the things they love to do around here,” Tanner Peterson said. “I always knew I wanted to stay local and this was the best opportunity to do that and still enjoy the things I enjoy doing.”
Mining has allowed the Peterson family to build and buy residential homes, lake property, four-wheelers, pontoons, vehicles, take family trips, and enjoy northern Minnesota outdoors activities, the three men say.
Beyond Minntac, they also get together at Michael Peterson's home to work on their vehicles.
“One thing that probably got Jim and Tanner interested in mechanics and stuff was I built a nice shop at home and when they've gotten their cars they come over to do different projects from brake jobs to engine changes and oil changes and we work on engines and talk about our jobs,” Michael Peterson said. “We get together and talk about our jobs and other things.”
On occasion, the three bump into each other at work.
“It really didn't come to us about three generations,” Michael Peterson said. “We didn't think too much about it. But one of the other managers up here, Mike Bakk, said this would be a good story because he didn't think there were ever three generations at the same here at Minntac at the same time. There's lots of other fathers and sons working together, but three generations is rare.”
Tanner Peterson said it's special to be able to continue the family mining heritage.
“I think it's a good feeling,” Tanner Peterson said. “It's nice knowing I will be able to carry on in what they started.”
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