In early August 2006, while driving on the highway that links the northern Colombian cities of Bucaramanga and Santa Marta, a uniformed officer with a sidearm signaled for us to pull over to the side of the road. The officer was speaking into a walkie-talkie as he approached our vehicle and I noticed the words “private security” emblazoned on his uniform and a name badge hanging from his breast pocket identifying him as an employee of the Drummond Company. My Colombian driver and I had just passed the entrance to Alabama-based Drummond’s open-pit coalmine near the town of La Loma in the department of César. The guard said he had orders to detain us until the mine’s chief of security arrived on the scene. Ten minutes later, Drummond’s security chief pulled up with a truckload of Colombian soldiers to question us about our activities in the region. It was then that it hit me; we had just been detained and interrogated on a public Colombian highway by the private armed security force of a U.S. mining company.
Tag Archives: mining
Many of the communities in Colombia’s remote northeastern department of La Guajira exist on the periphery of the country’s violence. The semi-arid landscape is not conducive to guerrilla warfare and looks more like the southwestern United States than any other part of Colombia. While the region’s geography is responsible for keeping much of the country’s violence at arms length, it is the cause of another form of conflict currently being waged against numerous La Guajira communities: economic globalization. In the early1980s, ExxonMobil—through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Intercor—and Colombia’s state-owned coal mining company Carbocol began extracting coal from the El Cerrejón mine in southern La Guajira. El Cerrejón soon became the world’s largest open-pit mine as it grew to its current size of 30 miles long and five miles wide. This continuing expansion has wreaked havoc on local communities, some of which have already been gobbled up by the mine, and others that are targeted for destruction over the next couple of years.