Guards With Automatic Weapons Are Back to Intimidate in Mining Country
Bulletproof Securities, the company whose paramilitary guards were pulled from the Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) proposed iron ore mine site in the Penokee Hills is now licensed to operate in the state of Wisconsin according to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on August 5.
A spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services announced that the company is now licensed in the state and will not face any charges for operating without a license in Wisconsin.
Bob Seitz, spokesman for GTAC told WiscNews.com that the company plans to use Bulletproof Securities to guard mine sites in the future but would not divulge a date.
“They’re one of the options we have and we’ll use. The violent protesters didn’t announce to me their plans and I’m not going to announce to them mine,” Sietz said.
Bulletproof’s paramilitary style guards were hired by GTAC after a June 11 incident in which several masked protesters verbally threatened mine workers and damaged property. One female protester wrestled a cell phone away from a female mineworker. Katie Kloth of Stevens Point was charged with felony robbery by force, misdemeanor theft and two misdemeanor counts of damage to property in the incident.
GTAC was criticized for using out-of-state guards armed with automatic rifles as a means to intimidate mining opponents like the occupants of the Penokee Hills Harvest Camp. The Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe tribe created the Harvest Camp to draw attention to the natural resources under threat from the mine as well as underscore Ojibwe treaty rights in the area.
Sen. Bob Jauch, (D-Poplar) and Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland publicly criticized GTAC for using the guards and wrote a letter to the company requesting that they withdraw them. Both voted against changing mining regulations that have allowed GTAC to begin mining efforts in the Penokees.
Paul DeMain, spokesman for the Penokee Harvest Camp decried GTAC’s decision to reinstate the BulletProof guards describing it as a “third world response to citizen actions.”
He further noted that the decision does not change discussions that need to take place about the land, treaty harvest, the quality or cleanliness of the resources or the future of Iron County vis-à-vis the Chippewa tribes.
Mining opponents remain concerned about the environmental danger presented by the proposed GTAC mine and disapprove of the dearth of information provided by the mining company regarding its plans and the chemical composition of the rocks in the area.
Joseph Skulan, a research professor at Arizona State University who works out of Wisconsin, says that GTAC is circulating deceptive information about both the content of the minerals at the site as well as their plans for mining.
Skulan currently conducts medical research in geochemistry and biology and has done postdoctoral work on iron chemistry.
GTAC representatives maintain that the proposed mining operation would not release sulphuric acid because most of the taconite they seek is contained within the region’s Ironwood Formation that contains little pyrite. Pyrite, (iron disulfide) creates sulfuric acid when exposed to water and air. Skulan, however, maintains that much of the proposed mine is actually located under the Tyler Slate, a pyrite bearing rock unit.
There is serious potential for acid rock drainage to reduce water quality and leach toxic metals from mining waste rock. The overburden would be dumped into huge piles and could generate acid-rock drainage directly into the Bad River watershed. Sedimentation-filling and hydrological disruption of streams and wetlands in the immediate vicinity of the mine may have indirect effects on wild rice and fish. The massive dewatering process associated with open-pit mining could lower the water table around the mine, seriously affecting the fragile wild rice beds of the Bad River slough, according to Bad River Tribal chairman Mike Wiggins Jr.
Similar mining operations in Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range have created high levels of mercury and sulfate levels downstream in the St. Louis River and resulted in fish-consumption advisories.
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