Summer 2020

Mining for insights

Iron Mining Association of Minnesota

Many businesses want to contribute to the well-being of nearby communities—a topic Amy O’Connor, an associate professor in the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, has been researching for more than 15 years. Since 2019, she’s been focusing on Minnesota’s Iron Range, specifically the relationship between the Hibbing Taconite mine and the neighboring towns of Chisholm and Hibbing.

This work is distinct in that there are only two studies of the U.S. mining industry (most have been international). It’s also the only qualitative study, giving primacy to stories about the importance of mining to the local economy and the communities’ deep pride in that history. 

“The legacy of the area’s relationship with the mines is reflected in the current understandings of corporate social responsibility,” says O’Connor. “The symbiosis is everywhere, from traditional miners’ food in grocery stores to signs that say ‘We support the mines, the mines support us.’”

O’Connor anticipates traveling to the Range at least bimonthly for the next two years and will eventually write a book on her findings. “This type of research takes time and money,” says the 2020 Talle Family Faculty Research Award recipient. “I’m so grateful for the Talle grant. This work wouldn’t be possible without it.”