Protesters Interrupt Drilling In Penokees 06.02.13

Read this article online By DANIELLE KAEDING

Protesters disrupted drilling by Gogebic Taconite on Tuesday, as the mining company explores a potential open-pit iron ore mine in far northern Wisconsin.

Iron County Sheriff Tony Furyk says their job is to enforce the law, not pick sides. 

“Let GTAC do what GTAC is doing, and let the protesters do what the protesters are going to do. They just have to separate and protest in a peaceful manner. We’re okay with protesting. That’s their right. It just became a little too confrontational today.”

Authorities say mining company Gogebic Taconite reported a disturbance involving about 15 protesters. Officers received reports of vandalism to GTAC property and encountered road barricades blocking entry to the drill site. Furyk says those responsible appear to have stayed at the nearby Lac Courte Oreilles Harvest Camp.

"Let GTAC do what GTAC is doing, and let the protesters do what the protesters are going to do. ... We're okay with protesting. That's their right."

Frank Koehn, with the Penokee Hills Education Project, says those at the camp do not condone the protesters’ actions.

“Fortunately in this situation, the sheriff’s department was right here and worked with us. We’re working with them to resolve this as best we can.”

Koehn says any destruction of property is counterproductive. Savita Jones, of Sanborn, spoke with mining officials near the drill site. She’s praying for peace and understanding.

“We recognized some of our similarities... we both have children and we come from a family of Wisconsin residents. Wisconsin holds a special place in both of our hearts, so we found that commonality.”

Even so, Jones says there will be no common ground for her and other protesters unless GTAC abandons plans to build a mine.

The Iron County Sheriff’s Department will meet with the mining company to ensure public safety of protesters and company workers moving forward.