Bob Seitz Discusses Armed Guards, Protesters

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Bob Seitz Discusses Armed Guards, Protesters

Premiere Date: 
July 11, 2013

Bob Seitz responds to criticisms over armed guards at the Gogebic Taconite mine site.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

But first to Ashland and Iron counties, where a picture is worth 1,000 words. Depending on who you talk to, those words describe a necessary show of force to protect costly equipment, or a scary militia-like presence on land where the public is permitted. The Gogebic Taconite mining firm hired a security company to place armed guards at locations where legal exploration is taking place in northern Wisconsin. It's caused quite a controversy even as those guards are now off duty while the Arizona-based Bulletproof Securities awaits a state permit to continue operation. Bob Seitz is the official spokesperson for Gogebic Taconite and he joins us now by phone. Thank you for doing so.  

Bob Seitz:

Thank you, Frederica. It’s good to be here.

Frederica Freyberg:

What's the status now of your security firm, Bulletproof, and its Wisconsin licensure?

Bob Seitz:

We think they're about a day or so away from the applicationing processed by the state and then we'll be able to use them again.

Frederica Freyberg:

So it is the company's intent to return them to the job rather than a Wisconsin firm?

Bob Seitz:

Absolutely. They've been very effective in keeping our people safe, keeping a safe work site and actually keeping even the protestors safe.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, some locals, we’re told,  think that Bulletproof Security with their kind of assault rifles and camouflage are over the top, and as you know, Senator Bob Jauch has weighed in saying, “These actions to hire them demonstrate that GTAC,” your company, Gogebic Taconite, “has no respect for the public and no regard for the law.” What's your reaction and response to the idea that people take exception to kind of the assault rifles and the camo?

Bob Seitz:

Well, we'd be happy to explain to Senator Jauch just what the situation is up there and what the real world situation is. I think that the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that he's using isn't really helping anyone. But in this case, we've had 4,000 acres that we have to-- we've got people out working on and we have to look out for, and we've got workers in those areas. And as you've seen from the video and the criminal activity that's gone on up there, our people aren't safe without security. And so we can debate about what security folks wear, but the fact is, we have a dangerous situation and we have to make sure that our people are safe.

Frederica Freyberg:

In fact, let's go ahead and roll some of that video. We've just seen this posted to Facebook this week from that June incident that resulted in theft charges against one of the protestors for allegedly stealing a camera of one of your employees during this confrontation? Let's just take a listen.

Man:

This is our water!

Woman:

You’re up here illegally and you’re–

Man:

This is our water!

Frederica Freyberg:

So what kind of continuing threat in the face of these kinds of protests, Mr. Seitz, do these protestors pose, in your mind?

Bob Seitz:

Well, these folks, they made threats even down to the fact that if the police weren't coming, they could kill us all, and there were a lot of serious threats. This is an ongoing situation. At night, at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning they would come down through the woods and try to get into our drilling site, and this is a regular occurrence up there. So we really have to keep the site under control and under observation. And we need to have separation between the public on private land-- and that's one of the other big points. This is all occurring on private land. Folks have a right to walk across it, but they don't have a right to vandalize our equipment or attack our people physically.

Frederica Freyberg:

Meanwhile, in the midst of all this, how is that exploratory drilling going?  

Bob Seitz:

We are on schedule or a little ahead of it. We have a couple more holes to drill. So it's going well that way. It will be months before we have the results back from the laboratories. But this is the information-gathering. These are the environmental testing that will tell, really both sides, what the situation is and allow opponents, as well as supporters, to argue their case. So we are not drilling-- we are not mining. We are just doing the exploratory drilling that gives us the environmental results that will actually give us an informed debate on this instead of just rhetoric.

Frederica Freyberg:

Was your company expecting such kind of heated protests of this mine?  

Bob Seitz:

I think you'll always expect there will be protestors. I don't think that you expect that your people are going to be physically attacked. And, you know, I look at that video and I think, you know, if that was my wife, I would want somebody to be providing security up there.

Frederica Freyberg:

What in your mind is the best way to diffuse this situation with the people so heated on, really I think probably, both sides?

Bob Seitz:

Well, I think that it would be great if leaders like Senator Jauch and the Representative -- would tone down the rhetoric. I think they get people inflamed and they make a dangerous situation worse. It would be nice if the leaders at all levels of government would kind of just cool things down. We've tried to keep things cool, but we also have to create a safe workplace.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Bob Seitz, thanks very much for taking time out to join us on this.

Bob Seitz:

Thanks, Frederica. I appreciate it.

Frederica Freyberg:

Today the Bad River Chippewa, who have been against the mine from the start, released a statement regarding the tensions on and around the mining state, Tribal chair Mike Wiggins saying, “We absolutely condemn any planned or improvised act of violence or vandalism against the industry or companies, and emphatically discourage any person to take part in any violent action.” 


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