Miners in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula garner praise—and top salaries

Posted on September 13, 2012 by Minerals Make Life

Michigan’s Bridge Magazine recently published a thoughtful piece by Phil Power, founder and chairman of the Center for Michigan, on mining in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which is home to tremendous pure copper and iron ore deposits and is a major source of local employment.

“The iron ore deposits uncovered west of Marquette in the 19th century were so rich that unprocessed ore was shipped directly to blast furnaces to be made into iron. Once those deposits were worked out, vast quantities remained of less pure, but plenty rich, iron ore.  Ever since, this has been one of the U.P.’s biggest industries, extracting, processing and shipping iron ore to steel mills in Cleveland, Ohio, and Gary, Ind. …

Cliffs is the largest employer in the U.P., with more than 1,700 employees. Thanks to 20th century technology managing a 19th century industrial process, there couldn’t have been more than 15 production workers on the floor, big, dusty tough men with swinging strides and gigantic lunch buckets. They’re well paid — more than $80,000 in wages and benefits.

And they represent today the generations of tough, strong, determined “Yoopers” who wrenched the metals out of the ground, wrestled down the giant trees from the forests, sailed the boats and caught the fish — all in the mythic heart of our wondrous state. It’s a place of historic legends — think Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox — and contemporary pride and purpose.

In these days of cultural scorn for hard-working men with horny calluses on their hands and a determined stride, their work and the ways they go about it make me nod with pride and admiration.”

Read the full story here.

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