Year After Fire, Soudan Mine Back in Business

By KBJR News 1

June 9, 2012 Updated Jun 9, 2012 at 11:16 AM CDT

Soudan, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Following a fire that shut down one of the Iron Range's most popular parks, the Soudan Underground Mine State Park is back in business.

The fire happened in a section of the underground mine, forcing it to shut down for repairs during all of last year's tourism season.

While the underground mine was closed, the park still offered programs above ground. However, Park Manager, Jim Essig, says that the park had less visitors than usual.

"A normal summer is about 35,000 people going underground," said Essig, "We probably gave about 13 - 15,000 people surface programs last year. So, [it was] maybe two-thirds that we lost."

The Park cleaned and repaired the mine, adding safety features that Essig says made what was already a safe mine, even safer.

"It was a very unlikely thing to happen in the first place," he said, "Now we've made it much better. With the concrete lining in the shaft, there's really nothing to burn."

Since it's reopening, Essig says that the park has already seen thousands of school children visit the mine, keeping employees busy.

"They definitely are coming back in higher number now," said tour guide, Pete Pellinen, "It takes some time for them to start coming back, but they're coming. So, we've got a good beginning."

"It was incredible. It was super cool," said visitor Gianina Contin, "Colder than I anticipated, but everybody had a really good time."

Some of Contin's family was visiting the mine for the first time.
With the tourism season at its beginning, park employees expect it to get busier.

Soudan Underground Mine State Park officials expect the park to be open daily now through the end of September.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.