Masked, armed guards pulled from drilling site temporarily

NORTHERN WISCONSIN (WITI) -- Two Wisconsin state lawmakers are demanding a mining company remove masked, armed guards surrounding a drilling site -- calling the guards excessive. Indian Country Communications posted video on its website that shows the guards. On Wednesday, July 10th, the Wisconsin State Journal reported the security detail guarding Gogebic Taconite drill sites have been temporarily removed.

The Wisconsin State Journal said the guards were pulled because a security contractor failed to obtain proper licensing with the state.

Senator Bob Jauch and Rep. Janet Bewley have called the move to hire the outside masked security team from Arizona "horrifying, appalling and confrontational."

In a joint statement released Wednesday, the lawmakers said 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.

Jauch and Bewley 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 your 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 and there was theft and vandalism of the drilling site.

"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," a security guard said.

This is 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.

According to its website, Indian Country Communications, which shot the footage, is "an independent, Indian-owned reservation based business."

Gogebic Taconite released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying:

"We have become aware that one of our security vendors, Bulletproof Securities is licensed in the state of Arizona, the ATF, the Department of State and other federal agencies, but not specifically licensed by the state of Wisconsin. We understand they have applied for the appropriate Wisconsin license, but not yet had their application approved. GTac has suspended use of this company's services at our site until the necessary approvals have been granted. We have been utilizing multiple security arrangements and will rely on those other assets until this vendor is licensed."