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Michigan Item: Heavy Metal Rocks

Issue #4

Audio file

Iron is a metal that is found all over the world. It is used for making things, such as cars, buildings, and weapons. Iron is usually mixed with other metals because it bends too easily on its own. Iron has been used for more than 5,000 years!

A large amount of iron used in the United States comes from the Upper Peninsula (pen-in-sue-la) of Michigan. Chunks of iron are found in rocks called iron ore. People started mining a lot of iron ore in Michigan in the 1840s. Those miners would dig up the iron ore from under the ground. It was then sent to factories.

At the factories, the iron ore was heated in a furnace until it melted. The melted iron would go to the bottom of the furnace. Any rock that was with the iron would go to the top. The hot iron was drained through a hole and poured into molds. Once it cooled and hardened, the iron was shipped to other locations. The left over rock, called slag, was thrown away.

The large amount of iron in Michigan has made our state very important during wars. In the Civil War, iron from Michigan was used in weapons and tools. It was also used in railroads and on ships called ironclads. Ironclads were boats that had large sheets of iron along their sides for protection (pro-teck-shun) from cannon balls.

Iron from Michigan was also very important during World War II. Factories in Detroit and other Michigan cities used iron to make trucks, tanks, and boats. The iron from mines in the Upper Peninsula has changed the lives of people all over Michigan.

The photo of iron ore is from the Minerals Education Coalition, The photo of the ironclad is from the Library of Congress.
top picture is iron ore, bottom picture is a Civil War ironclad

The top picture is what iron ore looks like when it comes out of the ground. The bottom picture is of an ironclad ship from the Civil War.