Bruce Bannon’s Slovak relatives were iron miners. His father worked at the Sterling Hill Mine in Ogdensburg, and he too would work as a miner during the summers while studying geology at Penn State University.
He’s now a guide at the Sterling Hill Mine-turned-museum, escorting groups of 20 to 25 visitors down into the deep 150-foot hole, just as miners used to do when reporting for work.
If his name sounds familiar to football fans, Bannon played first for Penn State and later for the New York Jets. He also helped the Miami Dolphins win the 1973 Super Bowl.
On his tours, he talks about the daily routine of the zinc miner. He talks about the dangers of ore blasting and the safety protocols that it was a matter of life and death to follow.
It was all to extract a very versatile material. Bannon said zinc is used to reinforce steel and in the manufacture of lotions, paints, and vitamins.
Sterling Hill was an active iron and zinc mine for more than 100 years before it closed in 1986. Bannon said there are still millions of tons of ore left in the mine.
“There were two active mines in this area, the Franklin Mine and the Sterling Hill Mine,” he said. “These mines have more minerals than anywhere in the world.”
Other guides talked about the uses and properties of calcite and other minerals found in the area, and of course pointed out the fluorescent rocks for which the area is famous.
After the two-hour mine tour, visitors can visit the museum, bursting with minerals, rocks, arrowheads, meteorites, dinosaur footprints, magnetic rocks, fossils, and — a crowd favorite — a petrified hunk of dinosaur poop.
The mine is open and available for tours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. For reservations and further information, call 973- 209-7212.
“There were two active mines in this area, the Franklin Mine and the Sterling Hill Mine. These mines have more minerals than anywhere in the world.” Bruce Bannon