On April 7, 1923 the first batch of iron ore was extracted from the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly, the largest iron ore basin on Earth.
The unusual thunderstorms in the region and wild dancing of arrows on compasses were an indication of the 200 billion or so tons of iron ore hidden beneath the surface.
The Kursk Magnetic Anomaly was first discovered in 1733 by Russian astronomer Pyotr Inokhodtsev while preparing the maps for the General Land Survey.
In 1883, Nikolay Pilchikov, an assistant professor, became the first scientist to attribute the anomaly to the presence of the iron ore.
In 1898, Ernest Leist, a professor at the Moscow University, had discovered the presence of the third magnetic pole in the area – never before detected anywhere else in the world.
While the majority of the geologists kept denying the idea of an unrealistic amount of the iron ore stored in the middle of a solid plain, an ‘iron rush’ started among the local land owners, who sought to snatch a strip of the ‘iron land’.
Over 14 years of scrupulous research, Leist had accumulated data to use in locating the ore deposits, but they were stolen by the Germans and offered back to Russia at a huge price.
Instead of buying the data back, Lenin organized a special committee under the leadership of Ivan Gubkin in 1920-1925, who investigated the economic potential of the anomaly and actually supervised the first extraction in 1923.
The ores are spread over an area estimated at 2182 square miles, at a depth of about 650-1300 feet. The deposit forms about 50% of the world iron resources, with the ore extracted both by open pit and by underground mining.