Mining company Gogebic Taconite is responding to complaints about the presence of armed guards at its exploratory drilling sites in northern Wisconsin.
A pair of northern Wisconsin lawmakers sent a letter to the company this week, asking officials to remove armed guards protecting the site of a proposed iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron Counties. Gogebic spokesman Bob Seitz called the letter “political grandstanding,” arguing that the security is necessary to prevent protester violence and to limit the need for law enforcement to be dispatched to the area.
Photos posted by anti-mining groups show private security guards patrolling the site, wearing camouflage and carrying assault-style rifles. Seitz says the security detail was put in place after several masked intruders attacked drilling sites last month, damaging company property and threatening workers at drilling locations. He says the armed security is necessary to protect against an ongoing threat to workers, with protesters still operating out of hidden camps and making attempts during the night to damage drilling sites.
AUDIO: Bob Seitz (:45)
Seitz says they will remain in place to continue providing a safe work place for their employees, along with protecting the safety of protesters who could be injured if they attempt to damage high pressure drilling equipment.