By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Gov. Scott Walker delivered a sternly worded statement Friday, demanding that environmental “extremists” disrupting preliminary work at a proposed northern Wisconsin mine site and destroying private property be held responsible for their actions.
“These extremists – who are disrupting work and causing harm to law-abiding employees – should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Walker said of incidents last month.
The governor noted an obscenity-laden video posted on Facebook by Andrea Ladenthin, a protester who joined anti-mine groups at the Penokee Range site in June.
As first reported by Wisconsin Reporter this week, a radical, anti-industrialization, environmental group known as Earth First! ostensibly boasted on a blog site about the cause of “making the preliminary stages of this mine as expensive as possible to send a clear message to financiers that this is an extremely risky investment.”
The blog recounted 15 protesters last month wearing bandanas for masks, building barricades to block police response to a planned protest. The blogger wrote that protesters jumped “on trucks and the collection tank and threw pieces of equipment like pickaxes, fire extinguishers, and shovels down the hillside into the thick of the woods. Fences were knocked over and broken and personal cigarettes were raided out of one of the company vehicles as workers and the manager stood in awe.”
The June 11 demonstration ended with the arrest of Katie Kloth, or Krow, as she’s referred to on anti-mining websites. Kloth is accused of taking a geologist’s cell phone and camera. She faces a felony charge of robbery with the use of force and misdemeanor charges of theft and two counts of criminal damage to property.
Gogebic Taconite LLC, the company that proposes developing a $1.5 billion iron ore mine in the region, was blasted by mine critics, including Democratic lawmakers, after hiring private security forces decked out in camouflage and armed with automatic weapons. GTAC, as the mine company is known, let the security firm go after it was learned the Arizona-based contractor did not have a license to operate in Wisconsin.
Environmentalists demand that the company should be punished, including penalties through the legal system.
Walker on Friday said, “The type of harassment and abuse we saw on the recent video of radical activists at Gogebic Taconite’s proposed mine site has no place in Wisconsin.”
Demonstrators showed up regularly at the Capitol in the past spring session voicing their concerns about a Republican-led bill that streamlines Wisconsin’s mine permit process through the state Department of Natural Resources. They vowed to fight any permitting effort after Walker signed the regulatory reform bill into law following passage of the bill in the Legislature.
GTAC is just beginning the permit process. Even if the company receives DNR approval, it still would have to go through the federal regulatory process, which promises to be lengthy.
“I appreciate the efforts of law enforcement in the area and spoke with the Iron County Sheriff to offer any assistance that may be needed going forward,” the governor said in the statement. “The laws of Wisconsin will be upheld.”
Contact Kittle at [email protected]