Six managers of mining company Drummond have been interrogated in a criminal investigation that has recently been started by the Colombian public prosecution. A total of 12 new testimonies shed light on the alleged links between Drummond and paramilitaries that are deemed responsible for many deaths and displacements in the region in the 1996-2006 period. Displaced communities have reacted by emphasizing their right to remedy and the need for a dialogue between mining companies and victims on truth and reconciliation.
Information about the criminal investigation was made public by the Colombian newspaper El Espectador. Based on documents of the public prosecutor the paper disclosed that Colombian executives of mining company Drummond have recently been interrogated about the alleged link between them and paramilitaries in the period 1996 and 2006. The investigation is ongoing and the prosecutors have new evidence to investigate.
Drummond set up their operations in the mining region Cesar in the midst of a heavy conflict. Parallel to the setup of industrial mining, paramilitaries started operating in the region and between 1995-2006 displaced 55,000 farmers and killed over 3,100 people.
Part of the documentation of the public prosecutor consists of new testimonies by 10 former Drummond employees and 2 contractors that have shared their knowledge about the period in which paramilitaries controlled and terrorized the mining region. These witnesses detail amongst others the presence of armed men in the canteen of Drummond in 1999 and 2000 and the presence of vehicles in the mine that were also used during massacres that took place in surrounding villages.
The documentation of the public prosecutor also cites from a context report of the Land Restitution Unit, the government institution tasked with investigating claims from displaced civilians and communities. It describes how mining companies sought strategies to protect their infrastructure and staff in the years after they set up operations in a conflict zone. “It is from this period the paramilitary action in this area has generated several questions as to the alleged relations between the coal companies and the Northern Bloc of paramilitaries through the Juan Andrés Álvarez front”, indicates the cited document.
Drummond has always denied any involvement with the paramilitaries. The criminal investigation will hopefully clarify the historical role of the company and lay a basis for addressing the human rights legacy. Joris van de Sandt, head of PAX’s Latin America program: “To the very least Drummond should start to acknowledge that its decision to operate in a conflict zone in the mid-1990s has brought negative impacts and that consequently it has a responsibility to contribute to the reconstruction of life and community projects for displaced communities.”
For years victim communities have asked the mining companies to engage in a dialogue about their role during the conflict via truth finding, and joint efforts to reconstruct livelihoods and find new ways of peaceful co-existence. Victims united in the Asamblea Campesina have formally invited Drummond to start such a dialogue. Deyis Carmona, president of the Asamblea: “The criminal investigations do not surprise us in the least, since testimonies have been circulating ever since the demobilization of the paramilitaries. The public prosecutor’s work however once more evidences the validity of our proposal for dialogue between the victims and the company through which we want heal the wounds of the conflict and build a new future.”
Direct dialogue needed
Many energy companies such as Vattenfall, Uniper, RWE and Engie have called upon their coal suppliers to begin a process of reconciliation with victims of human rights violations in order to turn a painful page of history. Van de Sandt: “Requesting mining companies to kindly do so has had no effect; hopefully in light of the news about the criminal investigation into Drummond, energy companies will make it clear that they are very serious and urge Drummond to hurry up with the start of a direct dialogue with victims.”