Alabama-based coal mining company Drummond has battled accusations of reckless pollution and human rights abuses since beginning operations in Colombia in 1995.
Drummond responded to public opposition and negative press by holding a rally in Santa Marta’s town square on February 13, 2014. The rally was attended almost exclusively by Drummond employees who chanted slogans “Drummond cares about our community!” and “Drummond in our hearts forever!” Speakers (also Drummond employees) expressed outrage at what they said is unfair criticism of a company that cares about the environment and invests in local communities.
Locals of Santa Marta- the port city where Drummond loads coal into barges for shipment to the USA- have repeatedly called for stricter regulation of Drummond’s activities. Colombia’s government enacted a ban on Drummond’s crane and barge loading operations in January 2014, but lifted the ban days later. Residents say excessive pollution from these activities is endangering their health, and sabotaging the region’s potential to be a world-class tourist destination. Business owners claim they are losing their investments, as tourists disgusted by black sludge on the beaches leave for other cleaner Caribbean destinations. Fishermen say their catches have declined by 60% since Drummond began local operations.
Drummond has previously acknowledged dumping over 2000 tons of coal into the ocean from a sinking barge. Local activist Alejandro Arias documented and publicized the spill. He received 6 death threats last year, which he says were directly issued by Drummond executives.