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New Depot exhibit showcases story, legacy of Erie Mining Co.

Al Hodnik looks at a 1957 Pontiac Chieftain that Erie Mining Co. used as a HyRail Car and is now on display at the Depot. Hodnik was one of the people attending Tuesday’s unveiling of a traveling exhibit on the history of Erie Mining Co., part of a multi-phase project. Hodnik was mayor of Aurora, near Erie’s mine and plant, from 1988 to 1998. “Erie Mining was not an abstraction but a complete way of life,” he said. “How blessed we were to have it.” Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com1 / 4
Morris Moren (left) and Richard Mickelson sit next to an old Erie Mining sign while listening to a speaker during Tuesday’s reception for donors to the Erie Mining Company History Project. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com2 / 4
Ron Hein, manager of the Erie Mining Company History Project, holds up a publisher’s proof of part of a book being written about the company during Tuesday’s reception at the Depot. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com3 / 4
People attending Tuesday’s Erie Mining Company History Project reception examine the project’s new traveling exhibit. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com4 / 4

A new traveling exhibit, showcasing the history of a pioneer company in Minnesota's taconite industry, formally opened Tuesday at the Depot in Duluth.

The exhibit traces the history of the Erie Mining Co., which in the 1940s and 1950s built the taconite mine and plant at Hoyt Lakes, as well as the shipping facility and power plant at Taconite Harbor and the rail line that connected the two.

At one time, Erie employed 3,000 people in Northeastern Minnesota. Erie later became a subsidiary of LTV Steel; the mine and taconite plant closed in 2001. The site is now part of the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine.

The new traveling exhibit, designed by Gary Lundstrom, is titled "The Promise, the Promise Kept, the Promise Realized, the Promise Renewed: The History of the Erie Mining Company."

St. Louis County Historical Society officials said a team of former Erie employees "collected oral histories of mining employees, researched and documented company records, and will publish a definitive history of the Erie Mining Company this October."

The traveling display comes ahead of a larger, fixed exhibit slated to open at the Depot in 2019. The cost of the entire project is about $500,000, which is being covered by private donations, foundations and a grant from the Minnesota Legislature.

The traveling exhibit will be on display at the Depot through March 25; after that, it will be displayed at other locations in the county.

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