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Update: GTAC Says Protester Takes Camera, Cell Phone of Worker

Posted at: 06/11/2013 9:47 PM
Updated at: 06/13/2013 8:57 AM
By: Maarja Anderson
manderson@wdio.com

Gogebic Taconite took the first step in executing their exploratory drilling permit Tuesday and set up their drilling rigs in the Penokee Hills near the Ashland and Iron County line.

GTAC representative, Bob Seitz, said 12 protesters walked out the woods near the drill site. Seitz said the workers felt threatened, particularly after one protester took a female worker's phone and camera, and called law enforcement.

"When it was things like barricading the road or putting locks on the gates and things like that, we obviously didn't call about those nuisances, but as soon as they started to threaten our people, the Sheriff's Department came out," said Seitz.

Iron County Sheriff Tony Furyk said the department was contacted at 10:08 a.m. Tuesday via cell phone from drill rig personnel at the GTAC site concerning protesters.

Officers from the Iron County Sheriff's Department, Hurley Police Department, and Ashland County Sheriff's Department responded to the incident. Furyk said the protesters had gone back into the woods by the time officers arrived on scene.

The Lac Courte Orielles Harvest Camp, an educational camp and peaceful occupation in the Penokee Hills, is a few miles away from the drill site.

"The camp is essentially an oppositional voice against the mine as well, but we're trying to build an alternative model," said Paul DeMain. "We have jobs, we've got food, we've got educational projects coming out of here."

Representatives with the camp said the protesters were not associated with the harvest camp.

"I can attest to the fact that there are other camps in the area and there's other people that have come through here," said DeMain. "Last night, people moved through the camp and stayed and then got up at daybreak and left."

The Iron County Sheriff's Department is continuing their investigation. In terms of the cell phone and camera allegedly taken from a geologist, the department is investigating and charges are pending.