In the past few years, at least six open-pit or underground mines have been proposed or started in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the first such ventures in decades.Additionally, four new Minnesota operations are using refined technology to extract iron from waste rock mined long ago. "I thought there was no way it was ever coming back," said Dan Kessler, who was 34, married and the father of two young children when the White Pine closure left him jobless.
"We've been kicked in the teeth so much over the years," Chabot said.
Highland Copper project manager Carlos Bertoni says the company will hire engineering graduates from nearby colleges and look for ways to stimulate businesses, like industrial sand production, that will outlive the mines.
"We see ourselves as creating opportunity here," Bertoni said during a recent drive through Calumet, where decaying shaft buildings offer reminders of mining's disappearance.
The mine is "extremely welcome," said Amy Clickner, director of the Lake Superior Community Partnership in Marquette County.
But the enthusiasm is tempered by the boom-and-bust history of the extraction industries. "Adding mining back into the portfolio is great, but we've learned not to make it the be-all and end-all," Clickner said.