Bettercoal whitewashes Drummond practices

Image: Dagmijnbouw in Colombia

August 29, 2014

With it’s first, positive positive CSR audit of Drummond’s coalmines in the Colombian Cesar region, Bettercoal whitewashes every possible involvement of this American company in large-scale human rights violations. PAX finds this astonishing.

The ‘Bettercoal Code’ states that companies may not profit from, or condone human rights violations by others. However, people claiming compensation for human rights’ victims, workers standing up for their rights or active in the mineworkers union at the Drummond coal mine in the Cesar region of Colombia are receiving death threats. Death threats were even issued in writing inside the company. Authors thereof say they were acting on behalf of Drummond. “How could Bettercoal then come to the conclusion that its Code was properly applied?” says Joris van de Sandt of PAX.

Bettercoal is an initiative established by a group of European energy companies. It was set up in response to the gross human rights violations by paramilitary groups operating in the area surrounding the Drummond and Prodeco mines in the Cesar region of Colombia during 1996-2006. Bettercoal focuses on improving business practices within the coalmines on the basis of voluntary participation. The outcome of the first CSR audit of the Drummond coal mine was positive.

What is most distressing is that Bettercoal’s audit makes no reference at all to the thousands of victims of paramilitary violence nor to the mining companies’ responsibility to safeguard the victims’ rights to justice and compensation. Van de Sandt says: “Victims’ representatives in Cesar informed us that Bettercoal’s people had not spoken to them. And the unions informed us their discussion with them was brief, without introduction or explanation. Consequently, it cannot be said that a sound investigation was carried out. Bettercoal’s working method reassures the Dutch government, energy producers and consumers without addressing the real problems.”

Missed opportunity
PAX observes that Bettercoal has become the ‘in-house consultant’ for energy companies and is therefore a weak partner as energy companies will do everything to ensure a continuous coal supply. Van de Sandt states: “This is a missed opportunity to deal with the problems surrounding the mines in general and those affecting the victims of human rights’ violations in particular.”

Blood coal
Over 55,000 farmers were driven from their lands by paramilitary groups in Cesar and over 3,000 people were killed between 1996 and 2006. 240 Persons ‘disappeared’. In the PAX report The Dark Side of Coal, perpetrators and witnesses state that Drummond and Prodeco supported paramilitaries financially and materially, and by exchanging strategic information. PAX urges energy companies to stop buying ‘blood coal’ from Drummond and Prodeco until such time as these companies contribute to the recognition and compensation of the victims, and to the improvement of the human rights situation.

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