Have you driven Route 3 in southern St. Lawrence County? Did you know that as you pass just east of the small hamlet of Star Lake you are just hundreds of feet south of what was once the largest open pit iron mine in the world? That’s right, in 1958, during the height of its life, the Benson Mines open pit iron mine held that lofty title. The pit was 4 kilometers long, 250 meters across and 400-600’ deep. Today the pit is host to a whole lot of brilliant blue water and the surrounding Appalachian Park region is forest covered and virtually pristine wilderness.
The high concentration of iron in the rocks of the region was first recognized in 1810 when engineers surveying for a military road found their compasses wandering. But until the timber industry built a railroad to the region the iron ore could not be exploited. Even with rail, the area was still remote and from 1890 to 1940 mining was sporadic and limited. In 1941, Jones and Laughlin Steel Company leased the properties and constructed plant facilities. Continue reading