Drummond Co. confident of victory in legal battles over Colombia operation

Russell Hubbard
The Birmingham News

Drummond Co. said Tuesday it is confident of victory in legal battles over its Colombia operation, which has been the subject of considerable litigation.

"After seven long years of defend­ing three lawsuits, two of the cases have been decided in Drummond's favor," company President Garry Neil Drummond said Tuesday. "The goodwill and name of the company will be preserved."

The developments have stacked up quickly this week in what has been an odyssey of litigation related to Drummond's 4,000-employee mine near La Loma, Colombia:

> Monday, a judge in U.S. District Court in Birmingham dismissed one civil suit filed against the company, one alleging Drummond was involved in the murders of three la­bor union leaders at the Colombian coal mine. It was similar to an earlier suit that went to trial in U.S. District Court in Birmingham in 2007 during which Drummond and executives were found not liable.

> Also Monday, the judge ruled that relatives of victims of violence in Colombia have until Nov. 20 to amend another suit. That one says the company enlisted private militias to pacify part of the South American countryside.

Drummond had asked to have the case dismissed, saying there is no evidence the company conspired with militias or that the allegations amount to war crimes. The judge Monday did dismiss allega­tions within that suit that at­tempted to hold Drummond liable for wrongful death under Colombian law.

Garry Neil Drummond said he is glad to see and end "to these claims of wrongdoing and vicious lies."

The company operates the 25,000-acre Pribbenow Mine near La Loma, Colom­bia, a surface operation that opened during the 1990s as profitably recoverable Ala­bama coal dwindled. The mine produces about 24 million tons a year for pri­vately held Durmmond, which has revenues of more than $1 billion a year.

Terry Collingsworth, a lawyer with the Interna­tional Labor Rights Fund who is assisting the Colom­bian miner's union, said his side is confident too. He said he plans to have an amended suit filed by the Nov. 20 deadline, on the suit that wasn't dismissed.

"We are going to provide the new level of detail the court requires," he said.

Collingsworth also said he has more plans for the suit that was dismissed, the one about Drummond's involve­ment with armed right-wing militias. He said he might file and appeal over that dis­missal.