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Gogebic Taconite: private security needed because of protesters

UNDATED (WSAU-WRN) Senate Democrat Bob Jauch of Poplar and Assembly Democrat Janet Bewley of Ashland are calling on Gogebic Taconite to immediately remove the “heavily armed masked commando security forces” currently hired to protect the company’s mining site in the Penokee Hills of Ashland and Iron counties. “The company that claims they want to do good for northern Wisconsin is arming itself against northern Wisconsin.” Bewley says company officials are completely out of touch with how things work up north, or they simply don’t care.

Gogebic spokesman Bob Seitz calls the letter political grandstanding. Seitz says security was put in place after several masked intruders attacked drilling sites last month. Seitz says the armed security is necessary to protect against an ongoing threat to workers. He says there are no plans to scale back the presence of security forces while exploratory drilling continues. “We’ve provided security that has prevented further violence and we’ve prevented the need for law enforcement to be dispatched.”

Anti-mining blogs have shown photos of security guards wearing military-style camouflage carrying assault rifles. Bewley and Jauch call the photos “horrifying,” saying this kind of “quasi military action” is common in third world counties or war zones but doesn’t belong in Northern Wisconsin.

Bewley says G-tac “overreacted” in an area that has been “very peaceful.” She says, “They changed from a very appropriate and low-key security company to this very dramatic, frightening, assault rifle-bearing, camo-wearing group from Arizona.”