ASHLAND, Wis. - Gogebic Taconite says it will suspend the use of Bulletproof Securities at their mining site in northwestern Wisconsin.
"We have become aware that one of our security vendors, Bulletproof Securities, is licensed by the State of Arizona, the ATF, the Department of State, and other federal agencies but not specifically licensed by the State of Wisconsin," Bill Williams, Gogebic Taconite LLC GTac president, said in a statement.
"We understand they have applied for the appropriate Wisconsin license but not yet had their application approved," said Williams. "GTac has suspended use of this company's services at our site until the necessary approvals have been granted."
Williams said the company has been using multiple security arrangements and will rely on those other assets until Bulletproof Securities is licensed.
Gogebic hired the guards after a mining protest last month led to criminal charges against a demonstrator from Stevens Point. Mining equipment was damaged and a cellphone and camera were taken.
"To add the images of these military soldiers who look like they came out of the jungles of Nicaragua in the 80s rather than the forest of northern Wisconsin, people were horrified and it raises to the level of irrational behavior," said Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar.
Jauch said he was appalled and horrified by the images of the guards and angry over the fact that they've been in the state illegally.
"It is very clear Gogebic has no respect for the people of Wisconsin and no respect for the law," said Jauch.
Gogebic spokesman Bob Seitz told the Journal Sentinel that the remoteness of the mine site lengthens the time sheriff's deputies would take to respond to an incident.Bulletproof Securities not licensed in Wisconsin
Seitz said the hired guards, armed with assault rifles and dressed in camouflage, would use force only if Gogebic employees are attacked and not to protect property.
The state said getting the proper licensing could take a few days assuming everything in the application is in order.
If the company does get licensed in Wisconsin to operate as a private security firm, any of its staff that wants to carry weapons would need to undergo 36 hours of firearms training according to the state law.
Photos taken by visitors to the site in the Penokee Hills show guards dressed in camouflage uniforms with masks covering most of their faces. They are also armed with rifles, and some appear to have multiple weapons.
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