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John Munro Longyear​
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John M. Longyear had a “nose for ore” that was unmatched in the early days of development of the rich iron mines of the Lake Superior region. In 1873, still a young man, John Longyear established his home in Marquette, Michigan. Then, over a period of more than 20 years, working both for himself and with others, Longyear compiled a phenomenal record in identifying iron ore properties that became producing mines.​

In the 1870s, John Longyear had his first success on the Menominee Iron Range on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Acting as an agent for the Lake Superior Ship Canal, Railway and Iron Co., Longyear selected mineral lands for development of what became the Curry, West Vulcan, Norway, Cyclops, Ludington, and Chapin mines. The famous Chapin mine at Iron Mountain became one of the largest underground mines in the United States. In 1879, Longyear published the first private map of the Menominee Range.​

Moving west in the 1880s to Michigan’s Gogebic Iron Range, John Longyear and his partners developed and leased what became the Norrie, Aurora, East Norrie, and Ashland mines. The Ashland mine, opened in 1884, shipped a million tons of ore by 1890. Also during the 1880s, John Longyear used leasing rights in return for royalties for the first time. Instead of selling the lands or getting into the actual business of mining, he retained ownership and leased the lands to mining companies, which mined the ore and shipped it to steel mills. This arrangement worked so well for both the landowner and the mine operator that it became the predominant arrangement for opening iron mines in the entire Lake Superior region.​

In the early 1890s on Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, as a partner with R. M. Bennett, John Longyear explored the timber lands owned by the Pillsbury family of Minneapolis, best known as producers of flour. The arrangement with the Pillsburys was that if Longyear and Bennett could identify 100,000 tons of ore, they could have 50% of the mineral rights. They found more than 100 million tons and, for years, the mines near Nashwauk paid huge royalties to both the Pillsbury estate and the Longyear-Bennett partnership.​

Under John Longyear’s direction, his cousin, E. J. Longyear, was the first to perform diamond drilling for mineral exploration on the Mesabi Range.​

Late in his career, John Longyear developed the first commercial coal mines on the Spitsbergen group of islands above the Arctic Circle north of Norway. His company, Arctic Coal Company, produced from 1906 to 1916, when it was sold to Store Norske Kulcompagni, a Norwegian company that still operates the mines. Longyearbyen (Longyear City), named for John Longyear, is the capital of these islands, which are now called Svalbard. ​