What Exactly is Happening at Wisconsin Iron Mine Drilling Site?



Mike Paczesny

A confrontation between protesters and the mining company Gogebic Taconite (GTAC)  has been ongoing in Iron County.

GTAC, which is proposing a $1.5 billion open-pit iron ore mine in the Penokee Range, began exploratory drilling in a remote area of Iron County.

Protestors have walked halfway up the three-mile stretch to a drill site to protest GTAC’s exploratory drilling.

Authorities say GTAC reported a disturbance involving about 15 protesters. There were reports of vandalized property and road barricades preventing access to the site. There were no reports of physical violence.

Those responsible appear to have stayed at a nearby Lac Courte Oreilles harvest camp. Those involved at the camp say they do not condone vandalism or theft, and is counterproductive to their outreach and opposition to a mine.

Meanwhile, Ashland County Sheriff Mick Brennan says he hopes to avoid making arrests.

“We’re allowing them to be out there; they have every right to be out there to push their opinions, to protest what they want. But the GTAC drilling corporation also has a permit to do that, so we have to [guard] full rights for both parties, because we don’t want to arrest anybody.”

Brennan says although the drill site entry gate is in Ashland County, the actual drilling is being done in Iron County. He does not plan to have his deputies patrol the area.

Now if this hasn’t sparked your interests yet, lets look at this:

Multiple protests over a proposed iron mine in northern Wisconsin are changing the complexion of the massive project as debate over mining shifts from a legislative fight to boots-on-the-ground activism that a mine spokesman called “Eco-terrorism.”

A group opposed to Gogebic Taconite’s $1.5 billion open-pit mine is planning an organized walk into a heavily wooded area of Iron County that was the site of protests and vandalism linked to construction of the proposed mine.

A three-mile hike into hilly terrain is being touted by organizers as nonviolent and an opportunity for the public to see how exploratory drilling “impacts a pristine landscape,” according to a statement issued by the Penokee Hills Education Project.

Gogebic’s spokesman Bob Seitz said the company is worried that vandalism could spark more trouble, once the group begins walking through an area with drilling rigs and other equipment.

With heads covered, protesters escalated tensions in a confrontation with Gogebic crews.

Iron County Sheriff Tony Furyk estimated damage at $2,000 after protesters slashed tires, damaged equipment, destroyed a worker’s camera and took away her cellphone.

So now you see the general situation going on in northern Wisconsin, but let’s get into a few things here, like mercenary-style guards now stationed at the drilling site.


According to a recent citizen-visitor, this is a photo of a guard stationed at the site where Gogebic Taconite has recently been drilling core samples for a proposed iron mine.

Are the heavily armed men who are standing sentry near the Gogebic Taconite drill site in northern Wisconsin in fact private paid guards as is suspected?

If they are part of a security detail, what is the name of the company they are working for?

Are they paid strictly by Gogebic Tactonite or are county, state, or federal governments subsidizing their presence?

Who are they ordered to turn their guns on and at what point?


Now that this is known, lets talk about how all of the money came from out-of-state. Roughly a quarter of the donations came from West Virginia mining magnate Chris Cline. The rest came from associates of Cline’s. Some of those associates are at Cline Resource and Development. Others are with a company called Foresight, which is majority-owned and led by Cline. Still others are with a law firm Cline does business with. The remainder is other mining executives who’ve done business with Cline.

Environmentalists claim the mining bill being pushed in Wisconsin was written by the mining industry and would gut existing safeguards. The legislation certainly is Chris Cline’s dream. And its approach to permit streamlining and environmental deregulation does bear a striking resemblance to the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council’s model legislation known as the “Performance Based Permitting Act” and “Groundwater Protection Act.”

Cline’s foresight is part of the global asset management firm Carlyle Group, a highly controversial and politically well-connected corporate behemoth with tentacles that reach across the defense, aerospace, automotive, energy, health care, real estate, technology, telecommunications and transportation industries. Carlyle Group first earned a mention on the Democracy Campaign’s website in a 2005 report we issued about shady Illinois donors who were funneling money to three candidates for governor in Wisconsin.

The Economist describes Carlyle Group as “deeply embedded in the iron triangle where industry, government and the military converge” and says it “arguably takes to a new level the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower feared might ‘endanger our liberties or democratic process.'”

Carlyle Group also is into mining, through Chris Cline’s Foresight. Which is itself a danger to our liberties and democratic process here in Wisconsin.

So What’s really going on in the northern woods? The military-industrial complex as per usual.

See more site photos and follow-up on developments as they occur at United in Defense of the Water.



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2 Responses

  1. esiBleuphy says:

    Can I hire an armed guard to protect me while I protest? That would be interesting. This usage of armed guards is scary – and the fact that it is being allowed. If they shoot one of the protestors, besides them being a martyr, what happens then? This is starting to look more like a 3rd world country every day.

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