UPDATE: Gogebic Taconite posts armed guards at iron mine site - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Gogebic Taconite posts armed guards at iron mine site

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IRON COUNTY (WKOW) -- Social media and progressive web sites have been buzzing since Monday over the release of photos and video showing guards dressed in paramilitary outfits and carrying assault rifles patrolling the Gogebic Taconite iron mine site.

"I think they're trying to scare people," says environmentalist Carl Sack, a member of Madison Action For Mining Alternatives.

But a company spokesperson says they're simply trying to protect themselves from the types of protesters that vandalized the mine site on June 11th.

15 to 20 protesters raided the mine site in the Town of Anderson early that morning, throwing full soda cans and water jugs towards some workers.

One of the protesters, who Iron County Sheriff's Deputies identified as 26 year-old Katie Kloth of Stevens Point, is facing a felony charge of robbery with use of force.

A sheriff's report states Kloth forcibly stole a camera away from a Gogebic employee who was videotaping the protesters. 

The employee told sheriff's deputies that Kloth screamed at her, "Don't you (expletive) know what you are doing to the environment?  Oh my God, you (expletive) idiots, you are going to ruin all our pristine water!"

"There are criminal charges that have come as a result of that attack," said Gogebic Taconite Spokesperson Bob Seitz.  "They destroyed our equipment, attacked our people personally and threatened them with further attacks." 

"The fact that a few individuals decided to take it upon themselves to create minor acts of vandalism doesn't reflect at all on the vast majority of people who are in that area," said Sack.

Seitz says the guards work for different companies, one of which is Bulletproof Securities out of Scottsdale, Arizona, which promises a "no compromise security force."

Two Northwoods Democrats, Sen. Bob Jauch and Rep. Janet Bewley, call the presence of the guards "appalling" and have joined environmental groups in calling on the company to remove them.

"It is a black stain on the reputation of Wisconsin to have essentially paramilitaries with assault rifles patrolling the woods of a beautiful tourist destination," said Sack.

But Gogebic Taconite has no intention of removing the guards.

"We have a responsibility to our employees to keep a safe work site and you know, I'd be more worried about the fact that a Wisconsin workplace could be attacked by masked people destroying their equipment and attacking their people," said Seitz.

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IRON COUNTY (WKOW) -- A spokesperson for Gogebic Taconite says the company has hired armed guards from more than one company to protect its iron mine site and will not remove them despite requests from at least two Democratic lawmakers.

Pictures of the guards dressed in military gear and carrying assault rifles started appearing online Monday, but Gogebic spokesperson Bob Seitz says they have been protecting the property for weeks.

Seitz tells 27 News the guards were hired in response to a June 11th incident, in which 15 to 20 protesters raided the mine site in the Town of Anderson, throwing full soda cans and water jugs towards some workers on the site.

One of the protesters, who Iron County Sheriff's Deputies identified as 26 year-old Katie Kloth of Stevens Point, is facing a felony charge of robbery with use of force.

A sheriff's report states Kloth forcibly stole a camera away from a Gogebic employee who was videotaping the protesters. 

The employee told sheriff's deputies that Kloth screamed at her, "Don't you (expletive) know what you are doing to the environment?  Oh my God, you (expletive) idiots, you are going to ruin all our pristine water!"

Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) and Rep. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) say the company's decision to hire security guards is "appalling."  The two Democrats sent a letter to Gogebic's president, calling on him to remove the guards immediately.

Seitz says the company will not remove the guards and called on Sen. Jauch and Rep. Bewley to be more concerned with their constituent who was attacked and had her camera stolen.

Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann will have more on this story on 27 News at 5 and 6.

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ASHLAND (AP) -- Two northwestern Wisconsin state lawmakers are asking Gogebic Taconite to remove the armed guards it has employed to protect a proposed iron mining site.

Gogebic spokesman Bob Seitz tells the Duluth News Tribune the company began using the private security guards after teams of mining opponents "violently attacked" the company's drill site last month.

Gogebic is doing test drills in Ashland and Iron counties as it works toward construction of an open-pit iron ore mine and processing plant. Several Ojibwe and environmental groups say the project will damage the environment

Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) and Rep. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) say the company's decision to hire high security guards is "appalling."  The two Democrats sent a letter to Gogebic's president, calling on him to remove the guards immediately.

  • Armed guards are protecting an iron mining site in northern Wisconsin. Do you think that is necessary?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Yes
    38%
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    62%
    454 votes
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