DULUTH – Two Enbridge Line 3 pipeline workers from Bemidji were among six men arrested in a northern Minnesota sex trafficking sting this weekend.

Enbridge said Monday both were immediately fired.

"Enbridge and our contractors have zero tolerance for illegal and exploitative actions," the company said in a statement. "That is why we are joining with our contractors and unions to denounce the ... actions of those who participate in sex trafficking."

The sting took place on Friday and Saturday in Beltrami County, authorities said.

"During the operation, suspects responded to an ad on a sex advertisement website," according to a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) news release. "Investigators arrested the suspects as they arrived at an arranged meeting place for a commercial sex crime."

The BCA's Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force worked with the Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking Task Force, the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office and the Bemidji Police Department.

"This operation was part of our ongoing, collective commitment to rid our communities of sexual exploitation," BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said in a statement. "It is never OK to purchase another person for sex."

Charges have not yet been filed for all six of those arrested. The Star Tribune typically does not name suspects until they have been charged.

Activists opposing the Line 3 pipeline long have feared the project could increase trafficking along the 340-mile route of the $3 billion oil pipeline that crosses the state.

Two former pipeline workers were charged in a trafficking sting in February.

"We recognize that human trafficking is an ongoing issue in our community and in society as a whole," the Enbridge statement read, "and we encourage everyone to join us in our commitment to working together with law enforcement and government agencies to bring awareness to the victims of these crimes and end this illegal and exploitative behavior."

Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496