MADISON (AP) - A mining company says it has temporarily withdrawn its armed guards from an exploratory drilling site in northwestern Wisconsin.
Gogebic Taconite spokesman Bob Seitz tells the Wisconsin State Journal the guards from Bulletproof Securities were pulled out Wednesday because the contractor failed to obtain proper licensing from the state. He says the company has two or three other options and will rely on them until proper state approval is received.
Gogebic hired Bulletproof Securities after a protest last month led to criminal charges against a demonstrator. Mining equipment was damaged and a cellphone and camera were taken.
Two state legislators earlier this week asked the company to remove the guards, who were armed with assault rifles and dressed in camouflage, saying they were there to intimidate mine opponents.
Here's another story our sister station, WITI did on the issue: Click on the video to see the story.
This is video from Indiancountrynews.com.
The battle between Gogebic Taconite and anti-mining groups is only growing stronger on the Penokee Hills in Northwest Wisconsin.
"What happened to your fancy guns. Look at that, they're close by. Who you gonna shoot?"
"Nobody, it's just security protocol. It's what we do. It's part of our company."
State Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, and State Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, call the move to hire outside masked security team from Arizona as horrifying, appauling and confrontational.
In a joint statement, the lawmakers say in part: "No one in their right mind can justify the excessive force. These kinds of security forces are common in third world countries, but they don't belong in Northern Wisconsin."
The two go on to say this move will "clearly do more to intimidate local citizens and increase local tensions than it will make you, your staff, or you equipment any safer."
Gogebic Taconite is right now performing exploratory drilling for a proposed iron mine in Ashland and Iron counties.
Protesters got violent last month from theft to vandalism on the drilling site.
A Gogebic's spokesperson has not responded to this story.
However one of the armed security guards explains, off camera why he's there in the recorded video to Indian Country News.
"It's in response to people who kind of came in and did activism stuff and tried to cut lines and kind of assaulted a crew, that's all we're here for."
It's just the latest dramatic twist between a massive mining company and opponents who strongly believe the proposed mine will pollute the Bad River and Lake Superior.
"See you later, dude."
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