Current and former leaders of the Alabama-based coal mining company, Drummond, are set to go on trial for allegedly funding right-wing paramilitaries, according to Colombia’s Attorney General’s office.
The prosecutor claims there is “abundant evidence” that former company president Augusto Jimenez, who led the company’s Colombian operations from 1990 to 2012, and the current head, Jose Miguel Linares, conspired with and funded the paramilitary group known as the United Self-Defenses of Colombia (AUC), which fought leftist guerilla forces in the country. The statement claims Drummond funded the groups to ensure an uninterrupted flow of coal from Colombia’s northern province of Cesar.
Both right- and left-leaning paramilitary groups have plagued Colombia since the Cold War. Originally formed to oppose leftist guerrilla groups in the countryside, many of the right-wing militias are known to be responsible for a great deal of political bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations, as well as being key players in Colombia’s drug trade.
Numerous private corporations have already been brought to court over contracting with the paramilitaries, with one such being Chiquita Brands International. Chiquita was also accused of funding the AUC, which is thought to be responsible for 1311 deaths in the first ten months of 2000 alone. Chiquita admitted to funding the AUC under the belief that the AUC would protect employees on their farms.
The AUC is also responsible for the killing of Drummond union leaders Valmore Locarno, Victor Orcasita, and Gustavo Soler after the paramilitary group hijacked a bus loaded with workers after a shift at the La Lorme Mine.
Drummond has fervently denied the accusations, calling them “a cartel of false witnesses.”
“These accusations are not backed up with credible proof and are based, principally, on false declarations by convicted criminals who receive payments for testimony,” the company concluded in a statement.
Drummond operates two mines in Colombia and makes up roughly 50% of all coal production in the country, and it is expected to export around 30 million tons of coal this year, according to Reuters.