Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Saturday, March 19, 2011

WikiLeaks Latest Info Drop--Alabama's Drummond Coal Co.

From L-R: Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Drummond Co. President Gary Neil Drummond, Former Chief of Drummond's Colombian Operations Augusto Jimenez

The Colombian newspaper El Spectador.com reports on Embassy cables leaked to the paper March 16, 2011 that details murder and politics involved with Drummond's Colombian coal operations.

The story is widely circulating in the European press, but we haven't seen much in the US papers on it yet.

Over the course of four years U.S. Embassy officials sent 15 diplomatic cables to Washington which expressed concern over the company's labor disputes, lax environmental practices and apparent links with paramilitary death squads.

A year ago, a Federal Court in Alabama, U.S., where the mining company is based, began a civil case against Drummond for its alleged paramilitary links. The case is still underway.

The Florida-based law firm of Conrad & Scherer LLP filed the lawsuit on behalf of 252 plaintiffs who are relatives of the 67 victims, including 63 men and four women. Their names are withheld from publication to prevent reprisals against them, said attorney Terry Collingsworth. The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama Western Division by Collingsworth, Conrad & Scherer founding partner William R. Scherer and Garve W. Ivey, Jr. of the Jasper, Alabama-based, Ivey Law Firm.

"The 60-page complaint outlines allegation after allegation of brutality, describing how hundreds of men, women and children were terrorized in their homes, on their way to and from work, and often murdered by AUC paramilitaries acting on behalf of Drummond," said attorney Collingsworth. "These are innocent people being killed in or near their homes or kidnapped to never to return home, their spouses and children being beaten and tied up, and people being pulled off buses and summarily executed on the spot."

Victims of paramilitary violence in Colombia accuse Drummond of having paid paramilitary organization the AUC between 1999 and 2005, during which time 116 civilians were murdered, allegedly by the right-wing militia, in the region where the coal company operates.

The civil case also seeks compensation for the relatives of several people who were murdered, which they claim was for refusing to sell their land to to make way for the company's railroad.

Wikileaks cables:
Cable one, created October 16, 2009 Unclassified, released by WikiLeaks March 16, 2011
A US diplomatic visit to the Port of Santa Marta on February 18 and 19 in 2009, detailed a stop at Drummond's coal shipping port. The diplomat that visits expresses no concern then over the possibility that Drummond is cooperating with paramilitary forces, even though a case has been in the news for the past few years. Instead, port expansion and increased production that would lead to the addition of rail line from Drummond's mine to the port is discussed. 
Cable two, created March 3, 2009, Unclassified, released by WikiLeaks March 16, 2011
11. (SBU) Drummond Vice President Gary Norman highlighted Drummond's
environmental and coal-field restoration programs and discussed
Drummond operations and plans, during a luncheon and tour of the
facility.  Since 1996, Drummond has invested USD 1 billion and
increased production from 8 million tons to 22 million tons in 2008,
expecting production to reach 25 million tons in 2009.
15. (U) Colombia is already the world's fifth largest coal exporter, exporting a total of 67.2 million tons in 2008.  Alabama-based Drummond sources all of its non-U.S. coal in Colombia, and accounts for one-third of Colombian coal exports.  In large part due to
Drummond's expansion plans, Colombia could become the third largest
exporter by 2012.

Cable three, created May 26, 2006 Confidential, released by WikiLeaks March 16, 2011
"Although XXXXXXXXXXXX said Drummond was not yet "deeply concerned"
over the strike, the company, its contractors, and the national economy
are facing significant financial losses. He doubted that the company
would be able to make up for lost production as the company was already
operating at 100 percent capacity, and estimated that the company is suffering
daily coal production losses of approximately 70,000 tons, with lost revenue
to be about 3.5 million USD daily. According to the company, its domestic
and international suppliers are losing approximately 2.8 million USD daily
and the GOC is suffering over 250,000 USD daily losses in sales, income, 
and import tax revenue.”

It appears that Drummond may have been seeking the diplomat's help for the bad publicity stemming from the murders of the three union leaders and the company was upset with the US press coverage of the case.

Drummond has successfully defended itself twice, but new evidence has surfaced, and a key witness who was imprisoned during the last trial was released and will testify in the case. In addition, the US Court of Appeals 11th Circuit has allowed the survivors of the three union leaders to proceed with the wrongful death lawsuit in the US.

Justice for Colombia has a number of stories on Drummond.

In another legal action involving Big Coal, federal prosecutors want to block Massey Coal shareholders from reviewing documents gathered during civil and criminal investigations on the Upper Big Branch (UBB) disaster. The feds claim it would hamper their efforts to prosecute Hughie Stover, who's accused of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice for ordering thousands of pages of security documents on UBB to be destroyed.

The business of Big Coal is black for reasons besides the obvious-- where there's coal, money and great power, strange and sordid things cling to it like a bad shadow or coal ash, whichever you prefer.

**WikiLeaks cable 1 & 3 verbiage appears to be some of Kevin Gosztola's writing. It was sent to us, unsourced and we want to make certain to credit sources that it appears to be from.
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  1. No Quarry in VincentMarch 19, 2011 at 5:13 AM

    Back in the late 90's, the Bham Post Herald ran an article about Drummond. Seems he took revenge on some well-to-do folks because they spoke out about Drummond's attempted misuse of tens of millions of dollars of federal highway funds.

    I remember asking myself, "God if he would do that to prominent members of the community, what would he do to those less fortunate?" I learned then that the coal baron doesn't "play nice" when he doesn't get his way, if you get my drift.

  2. I would be willing to bet the Alabama Press never publishes the story.

    1. this story was never published in the Alabama press that i know of. Silence here in Alabama. Its been 3 years since your post and nothing.....

  3. Drummond Coal is blood coal.
    Alabama coal and steel barons has some bloody, and sometime murderous fights over unions in the late 60's and 70's.
    Perhaps the way to do business was learned right here at home?

  4. The US Atty General, Eric Holder, represented Chiquita in a case that was somewhat similar to this:

    "Representing Chiquita, Holder brokered a deal for the banana giant to pay $25m over five years to the justice department.
    This arrangement was made after Chiquita admitted in 2003 to providing $1.7m over six years to the paramilitary group The United Self Defense Forces of Colombia. This group was listed as a terrorist organisation by the state department. Chiquita also allegedly provided a cache of surplus Nicaraguan army AK-47s through their own transport network. The payments continued unabated for months after Chiquita's admission.

    I agree that every corporation has the right to representation, even the most distasteful ones, but when you're representing companies that are paying paramilitary death squads to murder civilians, you have crossed over a line that you cannot walk back.

    It's very disturbing that Obama chose Mr. Holder to be the nations attorney.

    These corporations know what they are getting into when they locate in places like Colombia and the locations are not chosen by happenstance.

  5. Speculation abounds on the announcement last year by Drummond to sell the Colombian operations, but Colombian newspapers offer this:

    With a business as good as the figures show, many wonder why Drummond seeks partner. The truth is that the reasons for this move are not clear, because until now it was thought that the company had the capacity to continue its operation alone. However, the firm needs to pay U.S. $ 1,000 million to consolidate its expansion plan and this is an effort that can not do alone. In addition, Drummond is a private company in its industry, it has a single owner: the Drummond family, whose greatest representative today is Gary Drummond, chairman of the firm. This structure is fine for an enterprise, but if the goal is to grow and be a major player in the business must change.

    My own summation would be that Colombia has become too dangerous even for Drummond. His security must be similar to the president's at this point in it.

  6. This AP story ran on Democratic Underground in 2007:
    Alleged assassin worked at US Embassy in Colombia
    4/25/2007, 5:38 p.m. CDT
    The Associated Press

    BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — A retired army colonel accused of conspiring to assassinate President Alvaro Uribe's most vocal critic worked for the U.S. Embassy two years ago.

    Former Col. Julian Villate — now employed by Alabama-based coal producer Drummond Co. Inc. — was accused by Sen. Gustavo Petro Tuesday of trying to hire hit men in January to kill him.

    U.S. Embassy spokesman Marshall Louis confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that Villate was employed by the diplomatic post, Washington's second-largest after Baghdad, between Dec. 2004 and July 2005, when he resigned. Louis said he was not allowed to reveal what Villate did for the embassy, or why he resigned.

    "Sen. Petro's accusations relate to events which occurred well after Villate's time at the embassy," Louis said.

    Villate also was accused before his embassy job — when he was still in the military, in mid-2004 — of spying on leaders of Cali's public employees union in what the union described as an assassination plot. That scandal was widely publicized at the time, and remains under criminal investigation.

    These boys play as dangerous as it gets.

  7. You commenters are more knowledgeable about Drummond than we expected in this forum.

    Keep 'em coming!


  8. Talk about intrigue and dirty business! This one takes the cake (for today).
    Uribe is not a sympathetic figure by any stretch and Colombians have harshly criticized his close ties to the guerrilla paramilitary groups.
    Colombia is a lawless land and corrupt as they come.
    Seems like I have heard the Bush's James Baker is involved in defending the Drummond case. Do you know whether or not this is true Max? Or anyone else?
    What's the status on the lawsuit against Drummond by the residents of N. Bham?

  9. 5POINTS--

    According to Colombia reports in a June 2009 article:

    Atchison and Starnes law firm of Birmingham handled Drummond's successful defense as local counsel in the first two rounds and is in the same role now. William Jeffress of Baker Botts in Washington, DC is once again Drummond's lead attorney. Garve Ivey, Jr. of Jasper filed the two latest suits this Spring---the first in the names of the children of the slain Colombia trio. The plaintiffs' lead counsel in both cases remains Terry Collingsworth of Conrad and Scherer of Washington, DC.

    As for the "Filthy Lucre" case it's still waiting for it's day in court.


  10. There's been rumors going on for years about somewhat similar darkness going on with Drummond's Alabama mining operations.
    That is one man with a lot to hide.


    See page 3A of today's paper Birmingham News) This makes me CRAZY!!

    The Greater Alabama Council of the Boy Scouts of America is holding its American Values Luncheon March 24 at noon. Honorees are Garry Neil Drummond, the late Edward M. Friend Jr, Everette H. Holle, and G. Phillip Pope.

    I don't know anything about the others, but the Boy Scouts just lost this household's contributions with that outrageous homage to GND

    What were they THINKING???

    Clearly, they weren't thinking.

    How about it Boy Scouts?


  12. No Quarry in VincentMarch 20, 2011 at 7:59 PM

    The Scouts would have been better off sending Mr. Drummond a fruit basket and a thank-you note and avoided all this negative publicity of this display of groveling.

  13. Curious if anyone on this forum knows if the Alabama coal mining Drummonds are related to the ranching Drummonds of Oklahoma? Thanks for any info!

  14. CA--

    If there is a familial connection, it's probably quite distant.

    The Alabama bunch is a "closed group" and wouldn't have much use for distant cousins.


  15. What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty. You guys condemn faster than San Hedrin against our Lord Jesus. Noone is saying they've never committed any type of business ethics no-no, but consorting with AUC, buying hits for land, etc... that is serious business and I am not sure GND or any Drummond would put all they have in jeopardy for a small amount of money.... and by small, I mean in relation to the amount they make a year...

  16. ANON--

    You're amazingly naive if you think that the huge money involved with the Colombian mining operation is "small"and/or not capable of turning deadly in that part of the world.

    The lawsuit is moving forward because the Court finally understood that the children of the slain workers DO have standing to bring suit in the US Courts.

    Have you read the actual case files? The allegations are damning. I don't think you will find many Drummond sympathizers around.

    But there are a few. Like you perhaps?



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