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Gogebic Taconite's armed guards not licensed in Wisconsin

A private security company providing armed guards at the proposed Gogebic Taconite mine site is not licensed to do business in Wisconsin. Company and state officials confirmed Wednesday that Arizona-based Bulletproof Securities is not registered ...

A private security company providing armed guards at the proposed Gogebic Taconite mine site is not licensed to do business in Wisconsin.

Company and state officials confirmed Wednesday that Arizona-based Bulletproof Securities is not registered in the state and the guards have been asked to "stand down" until a state permit is approved.

State Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, said Bulletproof "has been illegally providing services, perhaps for weeks."

"These actions demonstrate that GTAC has no respect for the public and no regard for the law," Jauch said. "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 and provided Wisconsin workers the opportunity to provide a safe working environment at the job site."

Bob Seitz, Gogebic Taconite spokesman, said his company became aware of the situation Wednesday and asked the company to "stand down" from the area until their application for a state permit is approved, likely later this week. He said other security guards also have been on the job at the proposed mine site and will be able to take over Bulletproof's duties in the meantime.

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"They were not aware they needed a state-specific license. They are licensed by Homeland Security and ATF and others but not yet in Wisconsin," Seitz said. "The application was made this morning (Wednesday) and they could have the permit in another day or two."

The armed guards made news earlier this week when photos of the men -- dressed in camouflage, some wearing masks and carrying assault-style rifles -- were posted on several anti-mining websites.

Jauch and state Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, on Monday called on Gogebic to remove the armed guards who are stationed near test drilling sites in Iron County.

The lawmakers called the photos "horrifying" and the action by the company to hire the high-security Arizona firm "appalling."

"These kinds of security forces are common in Third World countries but they don't belong in northern Wisconsin," Jauch and Bewley said in a news release.

Seitz said the guards are necessary to protect workers from anti-mining activists.

The company is now conducting test drills, working toward construction of Wisconsin's first modern taconite mining operations, including an open-pit iron ore mine and processing plant.

The project was pushed by Wisconsin Republicans as a way to create jobs in the region but is opposed by several Ojibwe and environmental groups and activists who say the project will damage the environment. The company reported several incidents last month with drilling crews confronting mining opponents at the drilling sites. One woman was charged after an altercation over a camera.

Related Topics: ASHLAND COUNTYMINING
John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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