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Mining Company Still Using Paramilitary Guards To 'Defend' Drill Site

By aaroncynic in News on Jul 16, 2013 6:30PM


Not at all discouraged by outrage from local residents and lawmakers, Gogebic Taconite, a mining company test drilling at a site in Wisconsin, has a new set of armed guards for its drill site. The company originally hired paramilitary style guards from a company called Bulletproof last week to protect its mining site from what it said were “eco-terrorists.” Soon after, Gogebic Taconite pulled the Bulletproof guards when it was found they did not have the proper licensing to operate in the state. NBC News reports Bulletproof Securities President Tom Parrella said he did not know if the company was licensed to operate in the state.

State Sen. Bob Jauch, who co-wrote a letter with State Rep. Janet Bewley demanding the guards be removed from the site said in a statement:

“These actions demonstrate that GTAC has no respect for the public and no regard for the law. Had GTAC not been in such a hurry to hire a militia that’s armed more for war than defense of property, they could have hired a legally licensed Wisconsin firm.”

Gogebic Taconite however, wasn’t about to let the site go undefended from environmental activists however, citing an incident where a protester allegedly took a camera from a mine worker. Mother Jones reports activists in the area saw a new group of armed guards patrolling the mine, one of which was wearing a shirt bearing the logo of a group called Watchmen of America. The group, whose website claims it operates in 21 states (but not in Wisconsin), says it is:

“...dedicated to supporting the efforts of every Patriot and Patriot group whose desire is to restore and maintain the values and principles of our founding fathers and the Constitution of the United States of America.”

It’s unclear if the new armed guard spotted sporting the Watchmen t-shirt is a member of the group, a fan of its work, or Bulletproof obtained the proper license. Local activists who oppose the mine say the persistence of Gogebic Taconite to use guards armed with high powered weapons is meant to intimidate people who want more information on the potential environmental consequences of the mine. Pete Rasmussen, vice president of the Penokee Hills Education Project told Mother Jones:

“We have been gathering more and more people who want to come up to the area. Once they see what's at stake, it's hard for them to fathom that they want to blow it all up.”

The company expects to finish test drilling this week. After the test drilling, the next phase will be to remove larger rock samples from the area. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has yet to grant permits for that process. Local activists say that if the process continues, the waste from the mine could spoil the groundwater in the area with toxic chemicals. Mike Wiggins Jr., chairman of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians told Mother Jones “If the mining company is allowed to proceed unfettered, I think what we would have is an atrocity here in the watershed.”