Rent-a-cops hired to guard the site of a Wisconsin mining operation have begun stalking the woods around the mine in balaclavas and camouflage fatigues, all while armed with semi-automatic rifles, and an extra handgun holstered at the hip, just in case. Meet the security guards of the future!

The average person might think Gogebic Taconite had gone overboard when it made the decision to hire an armed squadron from "Bulletproof Securities" to guard its iron mine, whose proximity to Lake Superior has made it the subject of a great controversy. But the truth is you never know what kind of firepower you're going to need in the dangerous forests of Wisconsin. Bulletproof hires ex-soldiers and police officers; its website reads: "We train daily because threats can change daily." The threat, in this case, appears to be some environmental protesters, who are probably carrying very threatening anti-mining signs.

Two Democratic state lawmakers are now asking Gogebic Taconite to remove its paramilitary force from Wisconsin.

State Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, and Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, on Monday sent a letter to Gogebic Taconite President Bill Williams, calling on him to immediately remove "the heavily armed masked commando security unit recently hired to protect the company’s property in the Penokee Hills."


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 press release.

This is just the latest chapter in the battle over the Gogebic Taconite mine. Prior to the subject of the commandos, Democratic legislators, Wisconsin Native-American groups, and environmental activists all opposed drilling the mine for fear of spoiling the nature surrounding it. But state Republicans pushed through the project, arguing it would be good for jobs. And look at that: It's already put to work an out-of-state security team.

A Gogebic Taconite spokesperson told the Duluth News Tribune that the mine requires heavily armed security due to the fact that mine employees have encountered several mine opponents on the grounds in the past month. Reports the Tribune: "One woman was charged after an altercation over a camera."

A woman having an altercation about a camera. That sounds scary. The semi-automatic rifles make perfect sense now.

[Image by Jim Limbach]