Armed guards to stay at proposed mining site

Wineke: Rambo in the North Woods

A mining company says it has no intention of pulling its armed guards from an exploratory drilling site in northwestern Wisconsin.

Gogebic Taconite is standing by its decision to hire Bulletproof Securities to patrol a proposed mining site in Ashland and Iron counties. 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.

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. 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.

Two lawmakers on Tuesday asked the mining company to remove the armed security guards.

In a letter   to the president of the Gogebic Taconite, State Sen. Bob Jauch and state Rep. Janet Bewley call the images of the armed guards “horrifying” and say the decision to hire the security firm is appalling.

“While no one can argue that your company does not have the right to protect your private property, these armed guards serve no purpose other than to intimidate local citizens and increase local tensions,”

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.