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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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Todos los componentes de esta historia

1 June 2004

[DOC] Colombia: Informe de la comisión internacional para los derechos del trabajo

Autor(a): Comisión Internacional para los Derechos de los Trabajadores

Con relación a los casi 4.000 asesinatos de sindicalistas que se produjeron desde 1986 hasta el año 2002, se puede afirmar que la impunidad por estas violaciones ha sido del 100%, sólo se han producido cinco condenas por estos hechos. [se refiere a Coca-Cola, Drummond, Ecopetrol]

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Autor(a): EarthRights International

This report seeks to summarize the history, jurisprudence and politics of ATCA in order to explain how this relatively obscure law became a lightning rod in the world of business and human rights...[refers to Unocal, Chevron (part of ChevronTexaco), ExxonMobil, Freeport-McMoRan, Shell, Texaco (part of ChevronTexaco), Total, Halliburton, Talisman, United Technologies, Price Waterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers), Coca-Cola, Tidewater, Fresh Del Monte Produce, Southern Peru Copper (joint venture Grupo México, Cerro Trading, Phelps Dodge), Newmont, DynCorp (part of Computer Sciences), Ford, Union Carbide (part of Dow), Citigroup, UBS, Credit Suisse, Barclays, IBM, General Motors, Westinghouse, Bank of America, Rio Tinto, Pfizer, DaimlerChrysler, Occidental Petroleum, Drummond, Titan, CACI, Eastman Kodak, Paribas (part of BNP Paribas)]

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Autor(a): Ron Chepesiuk, National Defense College, Bangladesh, in Daily Star [Bangladesh]

...little effort has been made to make the multinationals accountable for what they do in interest of profit. But times are changing, thanks to a coalition consisting of plaintiffs from the developing world and aggressive human rights groups...[that] are taking multinationals from all over the world to court on the issue of human rights. [refers to Unocal, IBM, Shell, Coca Cola, Panamco (part of Coca-Cola FEMSA), CACI, Titan, ExxonMobil, Drummond, Occidental Petroleum, Del Monte (Fresh Del Monte Produce), DaimlerChrysler, BAT, Rothmans of Pall Mall]

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Autor(a): Gerardo Reyes, El Nuevo Herald [USA]

A former Colombian intelligence officer has claimed that he saw the head of the Colombian branch of a U.S. coal company hand over a suitcase full of cash to pay for the assassinations of two labor leaders, according to a document filed in a U.S. court. The sworn statement by Rafael García was made...[in] a civil suit...alleging the killers were ''acting as employees or agents'' of the Alabama-based Drummond. Drummond has steadfastly denied any involvement in the 2001 murders of Valmore Locarno and Víctor Orcasita...

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19 May 2006

Acusan a ejecutivo de empresa de pagar por 2 muertes en Colombia [EE.UU.]

Autor(a): Gerardo Reyes, El Nuevo Herald [EE.UU.]

Un ex funcionario de los servicios de inteligencia de Colombia sostuvo haber visto al jefe de la filial de una compañía estadounidense de carbón pagar dinero por el asesinato de dos líderes sindicales, de acuerdo con documentos radicados en una corte de Estados Unidos. La declaración...fue presentada...alegando que los asesinos estaban ''actuando como empleados o agentes'' de la compañía Drummond...Drummond ha negado categóricamente cualquier vinculación con los asesinatos en 2001 de Valmore Locarno y Víctor Orcasita...

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Autor(a): Garry Leech, Colombia Journal Online

In March 2001, a right-wing paramilitary death squad…[killed] the president and vice-president of the local chapter of the Colombian union Sintramienergetica, which represents the [Drummond’s] mine’s workers…In 2002, a suit was filed in U.S. Federal Court on behalf of Sintramienergetica claiming that the company had “aided and abetted” the paramilitary perpetrators of the murders. While Drummond denies the allegations, a sworn statement by former Colombian intelligence officer Rafael García supports the union’s claims...As [Drummond's]...Pribbenow Mine has grown, so have social and health problems in the nearby town of La Loma...Drummond has contributed to some infrastructure improvements in La Loma...However...[t]he dust generated by the company’s giant 25,000-acre open-pit mine permeates everything in La Loma...According to one local resident, “Many people here suffer from respiratory ailments due to the dust in the air.”...The constantly expanding open-pit coalmine is also proving harmful to the local environment...[T]he Danish government’s recent[ly] announce[d] that Denmark’s state power company would no longer purchase coal from the company until the U.S. court case has been settled. [Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Drummond to respond to the article, but it declined to respond]

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Autor(a): Julie Kay, Law.com

A federal judge in Miami has urged an appellate court to clarify key issues of corporate liability under a federal law that's been used against companies and foreign leaders for alleged human rights violations in other countries...U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez dismissed a human rights case against two Coca-Cola bottling companies that was brought...under the Alien Tort Claims Act. The 2001 lawsuit alleged that Panamco and Bebidas...assisted Colombian right-wing paramilitaries in killing several union members...Martinez ruled that even though the complaint described how Panamco plant managers allowed paramilitary groups into the plant and did not stop them from leaving threatening pamphlets, there was no evidence of a direct conspiracy between the paramilitary groups and plant managers...But Judge Martinez also asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to provide guidance to trial courts in handling cases brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act...The act has been increasingly used in recent years to bring human rights actions against corporations...Defendants have included Unocal, Nestlé and Wal-Mart...[also refers to cases brought against Del Monte, Drummond]

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Autor(a): Compiled by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

In July 2006 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published articles about the alleged involvement of US-based Drummond coal company in the killing of trade unionists in Colombia - allegations that the company denies. In August 2006 the Danish company DONG Energy decided not to sign any new contracts with Drummond until the outcome of the lawsuit brought against Drummond in the USA over these allegations is decided. DONG also said it will only sign further contracts with Drummond if it is cleared of all the charges. [Links to the following items provided:
1. Aug 2006: Statement by Denmark's Finance Ministry about the decision
2. 31 Aug 2006: "Coal case: Dong puts coal company on ice", Thomas Aue Sobol, Jyllands-Posten
3. 30 July 2006: "Business Ethics: Importing coal from bloody mines", Kenneth Lund and Jonas Førstø, Jyllands-Posten
4. 30 July 2006: "Globalisation: Coalmine death patrols", Kenneth Lund and Jonas Førstø, Jyllands-Posten
Articles 2 & 4 also refer to CMC's (Coal Marketing Company) Cerrejón mine, operated by a consortium consisting of BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Xstrata.
Note: English summary translations of Danish articles provided by Janus Juell-Sundbye of Lawhouse.dk]

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