Penokee Hills Mining Controversy
4:11 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

Mine Guards Removed Until Licensed

Mining company Gogebic Taconite has removed heavily armed guards stationed at its drill site in Iron County.  The move comes after revelations that the Arizona-based security company that supplied the guards is not licensed in Wisconsin. 

Guards carrying semi-automatic weapons have been temporarily removed from the GTac drill site.
Guards carrying semi-automatic weapons have been temporarily removed from the GTac drill site.
Credit Rob Ganson

GTac president Bill Williams says the guards have been removed temporarily, while the out of state security company Bulletproof applies for a Wisconsin license.  Photos of masked guards carrying semi-automatic assault rifles have alarmed some residents and mine opponents.  But Gogebic Taconite Spokesman Bob Seitz says the level of security is justified by threat of vandalism, and what he calls a dangerous situation. 

“This is a real serious situation, where people have physically attacked our workers, and were completely unprovoked in doing it.  And so, would you say that that couldn’t happen a second time?”

On June 11th a group of protesters vandalized the drilling site. A video taken of the incident by protesters  has surfaced on the internet. It shows a group of masked individuals wrestling a woman for her camera, while yelling and swearing at the mine workers.  Seitz says there have been further attempts at vandalism of the site, which he says were thwarted by the presence of armed security.  Seitz says GTac is employing multiple kinds of security, including local law enforcement and Wisconsin-based security firms.  But he says the Bulletproof guards are more highly trained.       

“You really need specialized people who can work through the woods without being seen. And find the hidden camps that the eco-terrorists have been in, and identify those.”

Those opposed to the Bulletproof guards have questioned whether the threat of vandalism justifies the level of increased security.  GTac says it does intend to bring the Bulletproof security guards back on site.