The Mining Industry

The mining industry has been essential for Marquettes economy since its founding in 1849. The Upper Peninsula was considered a useless piece of inhospitable land up until Douglas Houghton discovered copper in the Keweenaw Peninsula in 1841. Soon after, William Burt discovered iron ore in the Upper Peninsula in 1844. Thousands of people travelled to the upper peninsula to work in the mines, similarly to the 1849 gold rush in California. Negaunee, Ishpeming, Empire, Iron Mountain, Iron River, Marquette, Baraga and so many more were all originally mining communities. Shortly after the discovery of iron, the Jackson Iron Company was formed in Negaunee. Marquette was primarily a port town for Negaunee and other mining towns, but it benefitted greatly from the industry. During the Civil War the need for iron increased. By 1868 the Marquette Range was producing a half a million tons of iron ore a year and only five years later that number had doubled.

Map of the ore deposits in the U.P.


In the early days, most of the mining in the U.P. was done using shaft mines. Deep shafts were dug into the ground to reach the iron ore beneath. It did not take long, however, for these shaft means to be replaced with the more efficient open-pit mines. These mines are basically just huge holes dug into the ground with a spiraling road to go in and out of the mine. These mines were both more efficient and much safer than the shaft mines. Marquette is famous for its large ore dock in the bay. The dock is tall so that the ore can be loaded onto the hige iron freighters more easily. This technology is part of what made Marquette so valuable to the iron ore industry.





Mining in the Marquette Range has decreased significantly since the mid-twentieth century.  The Tilden mine and the Empire mine are the only two mines remaining in the Marquette Iron Range. Mining is not of the same importance as it once was in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but it still provides important jobs and opportunities in the area.