US company Drummond investigated over trade unionist murders

The US company Drummond is under new investigation for involvement in the 2001 murders of two Colombian trade union leaders it employed at a coalmine located in the department of Cesar, northern Colombia.

Valmore Locarno, 42, and Victor Hugo Orcasita, 36, were killed by the paramilitary organisation United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC). They were abducted from a company bus as they returned home from a shift at the mine. Locarno was shot dead in front of his colleagues, while Orcasita was taken away. His body was found the next day with signs of torture. Locarno was the president and Orcasita the vice-president of the Sintraminergetica mine workers union.

The Colombian investigation focuses on payments allegedly made to José Blanco, a middleman who was convicted over the killings in 2013.

Drummond is one of the largest exporters of Colombian coal, the country’s second main export commodity after oil. In 2003, the widows of Locarno and Orcasita, as well as the widow of Gustavo Soler, sued Drummond over the killings. Soler succeeded Locarno as union president and was himself kidnapped, tortured and murdered by paramilitaries a few months later. In 2007, a court in Alabama, where Drummond is based, ruled that the company was not liable in the deaths.

Five years ago, Drummond was fined $3.6 million dollars and saw some of its operations suspended after it was caught dumping hundreds of tonnes of coal into the Caribbean Sea off the city of Santa Marta.

According to reports, at least eight Drummond officials will be required to provide evidence to the investigation. The company denies any wrongdoing.