Colombia’s chief prosecutor wants to sue Drummond executives over oil spill

Posted on Feb 1 2014 - 12:19pm by Rico
drummond

Colombia’s prosecutor general announced on Friday that he will be pressing charges against six executives of US-based coal giant Drummond after the company dumped almost 2,000 tons of coal into the Bay of Santa Marta last year.

Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre announced to press charges after the Colombian Environmental Ministry already fined the Alabama-based company with $3.5 in December, for the miner’s dumping of more than 2,000 tons of coal in the Caribbean Sea near the city of Santa Marta.

The US coal company initially tried to cover up the massive coal dump, but was photographed by a local environmental activist and journalist. According to Drummond, it was forced to dump the coal as the ship carrying the load was sinking.

MORE: Colombia fines Drummond for $3.5M over Caribbean coal dump

The coal mining giant was also forced to close its private Caribbean port beginning of January 2013, when it failed to meet a deadline for the implementation of a direct-loading conveyer belt system which it was obliged to by the Colombian state after the coal dumping incident.

MORE: Alternatives don’t float boat for US coal giant Drummond

Just about ten days ago, the company disputed the suspension of its shipping licence for Colombia, claiming that this decision would violate its legal rights. In an open letter, the multinational coal mining firm stated that the temporary shutdown of its Colombia-based shipping operation contradicts previous agreements it had signed with the Colombian government.

MORE: Drummond dispute suspension of shipping license

Additionally, even though have nothing to do with illegal coal dumping, Colombia’s highest fiscal control institution is currently investigating three cases in total against Drummond for tax obligations amounting to almost US$100 million.

MORE: Drummond fined $100M for failure to pay taxes claimed by Colombia

The suspension of the mining company’s shipping licence for Colombia, expected to last until March, may have significant economic consequences for the country as a whole though, as Colombia is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of coal, with Drummond thought to export some 80,000 tons of coal per day.

The multinational argued that the ban could mean a loss of work for Colombian employees and cause Colombia to miss out on royalties, as foreign companies look to fill the supply gap.

MORE: Over $7B of mining investments stalled in Colombia

Drummond’s business activities in Colombia have always been the topic of controversies since the company has been accused on numerous occasions to have used paramilitary groups in order to intimidate union workers and local communities to facilitate their interests in the region.

Some of the company’s contractors were ultimately convicted in Colombian court of ordering the murder of several prominent figures in the company’s primary union, and a number of lawsuits alleging collusion with a labeled “terrorist” organization have been brought to U.S. court since 2007.

MORE: Drummond paid to kill unionists: Ex-paramilitary

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