On Tuesday October 30 Colombian authorities confirmed that they have started a criminal investigation into mining company Drummond over alleged financing of paramilitary forces. The investigation confirms the seriousness of the longstanding allegations and, at the same time, the need for truth and remedy for the many victims and their communities.
National newspaper El Tiempo was the first to break the news that the Colombian public prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation into the alleged ties between Drummond and paramilitary forces that operated in the Cesar mining area between 1996 and 2006. Eight executives of Drummond will be called in for questioning, including CEO José Miguel Linares and former CIA-agent and former head of security Jim Adkins.
PAX spokesperson Joris van de Sandt: “The investigation into Drummond is an important acknowledgement for the victims that have been calling, for over 15 years, for truth, justice and reparations for the impact of paramilitary violence on their lives.”
Truth and reconciliation dialogue
Between 1996 and 2006 over 55.000 people were violently displaced from their homes in the Cesar mining region and more than 3.100 were murdered. Ever since the communities have been struggling for recognition, justice, land restitution and restoration of their livelihoods.
Drummond’s starting up and expansion of its mining operations in the 1990s coincided with the rise of paramilitary violence in the region. The Asamblea Campesina has been calling on the mining company to enter into a truth and reconciliation dialogue with the victims. The Asamblea unites 15 victim communities in the mining region of Cesar. Van de Sandt: “For the victims such a process is not about the question of guilt, but about truth finding, moral responsibility, collective restoration of livelihoods and creating security. Without an honest conversation about the past there can be no building of trust, and without trust there is a lack of social license for industrial mining among large parts of the population.”
Prodeco, another mining company in the region, has taken a very different approach than Drummond. Prodeco is engaging with victim communities and sees a proactive role for itself in regional peacebuilding, including cooperating with truth finding and trust building with the communities of the Asamblea Campesina. Van de Sandt: “This is an example that Drummond should follow, regardless of the outcome of the criminal investigation.”
European energy companies
A large quantity of Colombian coal export comes from Cesar. Van de Sandt: “Energy companies that are buying Drummond coal should send clear signals to Drummond that it needs to finally acknowledge that there is a human rights legacy issue and alter its attitude towards victims. Prodeco shows that a much more constructive approach is possible. The message should be that if Drummond wants to keep exporting to Europe it needs to change its act quickly.”