Drummond lawsuits (re Colombia)


Balcero Giraldo, et al., Romero, et al., & Estate of Valmore Lacarno Rodriguez v. Drummond Company

Para la versión en español de este perfil de las demandas judiciales, haga clic acá.

AUC credit flickr Silvia Andrea Moreno

In 2002, the families of three deceased Colombian labour leaders and the union they belonged to, Sintramienergética, filed suit against Drummond Company, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary Drummond Ltd. in US federal court.  The plaintiffs alleged that Drummond hired Colombian paramilitaries to kill and torture the three labour leaders in 2001.  Sintramienergética represents workers at Drummond’s coal mining operations in Colombia.  The case was brought under the US Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), US Torture Victim Protection Act and Alabama state law.  Drummond sought dismissal of the case, which the court granted as to the state law claims and one of the ATCA claims in 2003.  The court declined to dismiss the ATCA claims for extrajudicial killing and for denial of rights to associate and organise.  In March 2007, the court ruled that the case against Drummond Ltd. (the subsidiary) would go to trial, but dismissed the case against Drummond Company (the parent company).  In June of 2007, the district court judge dismissed the wrongful death claims, but the judge allowed the plaintiffs’ war crimes allegations under ATCA (summary execution) to stand.  The trial was held in July 2007.  The jury acquitted Drummond finding that the company was not liable for the deaths of the three murdered labour leaders.  On 11 December 2007, the plaintiffs filed their opening brief to appeal the lower court's verdict with the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. On 25 March 2015, the Court dismissed the lawsuit against Drummond on the basis that the harm occurred outside the US.

In March 2009, the children of three slain Colombian union leaders filed a new lawsuit in US federal court against Drummond alleging the company's complicity in the killings.  Another lawsuit was filed in US federal court against Drummond in May 2009 alleging that the company had made payments to the paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (known by its Spanish acronym AUC) to kill labour leaders.  Drummond has denied these allegations.  While a lower court dismissed the lawsuit brought by the union leaders' children, on 3 February 2011 the federal court of appeals reversed this dismissal and remanded the case to the lower court.  The court of appeals found that the children did have standing to pursue their claims against Drummond and remanded their previously dismissed claims under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act for further proceedings at the trial court level.  On 25 July 2013 the district court judge dismissed the case against Drummond finding that the court no longer had jurisdiction to hear the case, citing the US Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Shell. On 23 September 2014, a US federal appeals court affirmed a lower court’s order from 2012 to dismiss the lawsuit against Drummond on the basis that the “allegations and evidence…do not show conduct focused in the United States.”

In February 2013 a former contractor for Drummond was sentenced by a Colombian court to 38 years in prison for organizing the killing of two labour leaders in 2001.  The judge ordered prosecutors to investigate Drummond’s president and several former employees to determine whether they had a role in the killings. Consequently, in May 2015, a former executive of Drummond was charged with the murder of two trade unionists, after former paramilitaries claimed he took part in the murders ordered by the company. This case is now to be decided by Colombia’s Courts of Justice.

- Drummond Cleared on Death Squad Murders, Jack Bouboushian, Courthosue News, 26 Mar 2015
- War crimes lawsuit against Drummond dismissed, Ryan Poe, Birmingham Business Journal, 31 Jul 2013
Colombian judge convicts ex-contractor in Drummond union leader killing, Associated Press, 6 Feb 2013
- Mining Company Faces Suit Over Union Killings, Kevin Duvall, 4 Feb 2011
- Suit claims Ala. coal firm funded Colombian terror, Bob Johnson, AP, 28 May 2009
- Children Sue Ala. Company In Colombian Mine Deaths, Jay Reeves, AP, 20 Mar 2009
- Alabama Company Is Exonerated in Murders at Colombian Mine, Kyle Whitmore, New York Times, 27 Jul 2007
- Drummond case shows danger facing Colombian unions, Hugh Bronstein, Reuters, 16 Nov 2006
- US firm sued after mine union leaders' deaths, Andrew Gumbel, Independent [UK], 25 Mar 2002

Drummond Ltd.:
- Drummond does not negotiate with illegal groups; the Company emphatically rejects all charges against the company and its executives, 21 Mar 2007 [press release]
- Drummond's Colombian Operations

- US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: Jane Doe, et al. v. Drummond Company, 25 Mar 2015
- US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama: Balcero Giraldo, et al. v. Drummond Company - Memorandum Opinion Granting Summary Judgment, 25 Jul 2013
- Balcero Giraldo, et al. v. Drummond Company - Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, 17 Sep 2012
- US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: [PDF] Locarno Baloco, et al. v. Drummond Company, Inc., 3 Feb 2011
- Romero, et al. v. Drummond, et al. - Appellants' Opening Brief, 11 Dec 2007
- Estate of Valmore Lacarno Rodriguez v. Drummond Company - Complaint, 14 Mar 2002

- US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: Juan Aquas Romero v. Drummond Company, 14 Mar 2007 [order unsealing certain case documents]
- US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama: Estate of Valmore Lacarno Rodriguez v. Drummond Company, 14 Apr 2003 [order dismissing certain claims, declining to dismiss claims for extrajudicial killings and denial of rights to associate & organise]


Melo et al. v. Drummond Company

On 26 February 2013, family members of 34 Colombians killed by paramilitaries filed a complaint against Drummond in the US alleging that the company had hired the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) to protect Drummond’s Colombian mine operations in Cesar Province from civilians who lived in the area.  The complaint was brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) against Drummond and several of its officers.  The plaintiffs argued that Drummond was liable for aiding, abetting, conspiring with and having a relationship with the AUC, who are accused of extrajudicial killings, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.  Drummond denied the allegations and argued that the claim should be dismissed as US courts lack jurisdiction to hear the case.

On 26 April 2013, the plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint to the district court.  The company asked for the complaint to be dismissed.  On 15 January 2014, the court asked the parties why it should still hear the case given that in Daimler AG v. Bauman, the US Supreme Court ruled that the company’s ties with the US were not enough for the court to hear the case.  The plaintiffs concluded that all parties would benefit from the court’s assessment of the impact of Kiobel on three other similar Drummond ATS lawsuits pending, all of which could affect their claims.   On 4 February 2014, the district court stayed the case.

On 20 April 2015, after courts had decided two of the other Drummond ATS cases, the district court asked the parties to provide reasons on whether this case should be dismissed.  The plaintiffs argued that they had brought claims based on grounds other than ATS, which Kiobelwould have no impact on.  Drummond argued that all the claims should be dismissed.

On 26 January 2016, the district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims based on the decisions from the other Drummond lawsuits that were dismissed.  The plaintiffs appealed.  On 27 September 2016, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in part, and affirmed in part, the district court’s decision.  The appeals court said that the lower court could not summarily dismiss the plaintiff’s claims.  The court also found that corporations could not be sued under the TVPA, but that claims against Drummond’s officers could be considered.  The court also ruled that the ATS claim could be amended and refiled to meet the “touch and concern” test set by Kiobel.


Baker Botts LLP (Counsel for the defendants)
Brief of Appellees, 20 Jun 2016

International Rights Advocates (Counsel for the plaintiffs)
Melo et al. v. Drummond Company, Inc., Case information
11th Circuit Court of Appeals Issues Favorable Opinion in our case against Drummond, 27 Sep 2016
Appellants' Reply Brief, 22 Jul 2016
Appellants’ Opening Brief, 11 May 2016
First Amended Complaint, Terrence P. Collingsworth, International Rights Advocates & Eric J. Hager, Conrad & Scherer LLP, 26 Apr 2013
Plaintiff's Complaint, Thomas L. Carmichael, Carmichael Law Firm LLC, 26 Feb 2013

-  Opinion Issued on the Courts own Motion Opinion, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, 27 Sep 2016


Criminal investigation against Drummond officials in Colombia

In October 2018, the Colombian Specialized Criminal Prosecutor's Office No. 247 reopened investigation against eight current and former Drummond officials over allegations of financing paramilitaries' war crimes in Colombia from 1996 to 2006. The company denied that it supported illegal armed groups in a statement and expressed willingness to cooperate with the authorities on the investigation.

- Drummond Officials Charged with Financing AUC War Crimes in Colombia, International Rights Advocates, 30 Oct 2018
- Colombia reopens probe into Alabama-based Drummond, Associated Press, Tuscaloosanews.com, 30 Oct 2018
- Colombia calls Drummond coal officials to testify on paramilitaries: source, Reuters, 30 Oct 2018
- Statement to the public opinion, Drummond, 30 Oct 2018

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30 October 2018

Colombia calls Drummond coal officials to testify on paramilitaries: source

Author: Reuters

Eight current and former officials of U.S. coal producer Drummond Co Inc...were called last week to testify before Colombian investigators about allegations the company supported far-right paramilitary death squads...

Prosecutors have investigated allegations for more than a decade that Drummond financed paramilitary groups involved in the 2001 assassination of two union leaders in northern Colombia.

Drummond and company officials were exonerated by U.S. courts in the case. In Colombia officials were also exonerated, but a contractor was sentenced to 38 years in prison for making payments to the paramilitaries...

The attorney general's office would not confirm whether this investigation relates to new allegations or if it is part of an open investigation into the previous charges...

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30 October 2018

Colombia reopens probe into Alabama-based Drummond

Author: Associated Press, Tuscaloosanews.com

Colombian authorities confirmed Tuesday that they have reopened an investigation into whether an Alabama-based coal company financed a paramilitary group during the South American nation’s bloody civil conflict. The chief prosecutor’s office said the investigation into the Colombian subsidiary of Drummond Co. Inc. is focusing on irregular payments allegedly made to a contractor, Jose Blanco, who was convicted in 2013 in the killing of two union leaders who worked at Drummond. They were sentenced to 38 years in prison. Accusations have long swirled that Drummond financed an umbrella paramilitary group, but U.S. courts have repeatedly ruled against the families of the Colombian victims...

Drummond issued a statement Tuesday denying the accusation and vowing to cooperate fully with any probe. “The company reiterates that it has never supported illegal armed groups,” the statement said. Terry Collingsworth, a lawyer representing relatives of those killed by right-wing militias during the conflict, said the new investigation is a “first step” toward holding Drummond officials accountable and paying reparations. “Justice is coming,” he said. Drummond has been operating in Colombia for several decades and is one of the nation’s biggest coal exporters. In repeated lawsuits, human rights activists and victim relatives have alleged that Drummond hired militias to silence union activists and suspected leftists.

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30 October 2018

Drummond Officials Charged with Financing AUC War Crimes in Colombia

Author: International Rights Advocates

The Colombian Specialized Criminal Prosecutor’s Office No. 247 conducted an independent investigation across the last year and concluded there was sufficient evidence to formally open a criminal case against Drummond Company Ltd., the American coal giant, for financing the terrorist United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the umbrella paramilitary group in Colombia.

The prosecutor named the Drummond officials who provided funding, logistical support and other assistance to the AUC’s war crimes from 1996 to 2006.

[The NGO] IRAdvocates represents over 600 families who had a close relative murdered by AUC death squads directed by Drummond to protect the company’s rail line from guerilla groups.

The AUC has admitted that it used scorched-earth tactics and killed anyone “suspected” of being aligned with guerilla groups who happened to wander near Drummond’s facilities.

Drummond has long denied any association with the AUC...[and] initiated frivolous...suits against the lawyers who were attempting to bring Drummond to justice...

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30 October 2018

“Statement to the public opinion”

Author: Drummond

October 30, 2018

With respect to media reports that an investigation has been reopened in Colombia concerning certain of our current and former employees, Drummond Ltd. would like to provide the following information:

  • Drummond’s alleged involvement with the AUC has been exhaustively investigated by prosecutors in Colombia and by the courts in the United States, with all concluded cases and investigations resulting in favor of the Company and its employees.
  • Neither the Company nor its employees have been notified by Colombian authorities of the reported investigation, and have only been made aware of this situation by the media. 

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Author: Gwynne Skinner, Robert McCorquodale, Olivier De Schutter & Andie Lambe

"第三大支柱: 讓跨國公司侵犯人權行為的受害者獲得司法救濟", 2013年2月


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Author: Gwynne Skinner, Robert McCorquodale, Olivier De Schutter & Andie Lambe

"第三大支柱: 让跨国公司侵犯人权行为的受害者获得司法救济", 2013年2月


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Author: Confederación General del Trabajo

"Demandada la multinacional del carbón Drummond por violaciones a los derechos humanos, laborales y de salud de sus trabajadores", 19 Jul 2016

A los trabajadores de las minas de carbón de la Drummond en el departamento del Cesar los están matando las enfermedades producidas por la explotación del carbón, la corrupción de algunas Administradoras de Riesgos Profesionales que se niegan a asumir sus responsabilidades y la permanente violación de los derechos humanos de los mineros por parte de la empresa. Esta gravísima situación laboral y de salud, ha llevado a que por primera vez en Colombia, los trabajadores de la empresa agrupados en el sindicato Sintradem y la Confederación General del Trabajo, CGT, [hayan] entablado una demanda contra la multinacional estadounidense Drummond ante el Punto Nacional de Contacto, PNC de la Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económico, OCDE...

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15 December 2015

Labour-Rights Lawyer Paid Witnesses And Lied About It, Judge Says

Author: Daniel Fisher, Forbes (USA)

The judge hearing [Drummond’s] defamation suit against an international labor-rights activist has issued a blistering ruling against the lawyer, accusing him of repeatedly lying about making payments to witnesses and possibly assisting them in committing perjury.  Collingsworth [sued] Drummond Coal over allegations the company collaborated with right-wing paramilitary officers to kill union officials…Those suits have all been dismissed, but Drummond fired back by suing Collingsworth for defamation.  The firm also accuses Dutch Oil company Llanos Oil in a separate suit of aiding in the conspiracy by paying one of the witnesses in Collingsworth’s case…U.S. District Judge…said he will allow Drummond to pierce the attorney-client privilege Collingsworth has used…[The judge] said there was ample evidence Collingsworth…had misled the court about their payments to witnesses…One of the most startling revelations to come out of the documents so far is that…one of the owners of Llanos Oil, paid a onetime Drummond contractor...right before [he] changed his testimony to implicate Drummond executives in the killing of two union officials…[T]he judge certified his order for an interlocutory appeal.  Collingsworth…said his lawyers will appeal this week…If the judge’s order stands, Drummond’s lawyers will issue more sweeping demands for communications between plaintiff lawyers and the witnesses…

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7 December 2015

Drummond v Collingsworth Order

Author: R. David Proctor, Judge for United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama Southern Division

In the face of what is now indisputable evidence, it is clear, and Collingsworth admits, that he made “security” payments to  multiple (at least six) witnesses in South America as part of his prosecution of lawsuits against Drummond Coal Company…Collingsworth only disclosed three such payments to the court and Drummond.  In fact, on multiple occasions he has given sworn testimony that there were only three witnesses paid…The court finds that the crime-fraud exception applies here, and that it operates to pierce the work product and attorney client privileges to the extent explained in this opinion, thus allowing Drummond…to furrow deeper into the hole of matters otherwise covered by the veil of privacy.  Moreover, because the crime-fraud exception applies here, Drummond is entitled to a second round of discovery…In accordance with the findings of this Memorandum Opinion: (1) the remaining portions of the Report and Recommendation of Special Master Regarding Certain Issues Relating to the Court’s Hearing on Plaintiff’s Motion for Sanctions…are ADOPTED and  APPROVED, to be implemented consistent with this Opinion; and (2) Drummond Company, Inc.’s Motions to Compel Answers to Deposition Questions…are GRANTED, to be implemented consistent with this Opinion…

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28 May 2015

Colombia: Former Drummond executive charged with 2001 murder of 2 trade unionists

Author: Emma Rosser, Colombia Reports

"Drummond executive arrested over paramilitary murder charges", 26 May 2015

A Colombian executive of US-based coal company Drummond...Alfredo Araujo, the former Head of Industrial Relations for the Alabama-based coal miners, has been charged with the murder of two trade union activists lowered from a bus and shot in 2001...Former paramilitary...claimed he took part in the murders as part of the Northern Block of the AUC [United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia] and that they were ordered in response to a planned strike that would generate a loss for the multinational company...In 2009, a civil lawsuit was filed in US courts against the company. However, the US Court of Appeals filed the case on March 25th claiming a lack of adequate information to bring the international claim to US courts. This case is now to be decided by Colombia’s Courts of Justice...Araujo, Blanco’s inside contact at Drummond, has been provided two lawyers by the company and proceedings are expected to begin within a week...

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