Four Suits

Also dogging Drummond is labor lawyer Terry Collingsworth, who has filed four civil suits against Drummond Co., two of which demanded compensation for the families of union leaders killed in Colombia while representing workers at the Alabamian’s mines. In 2007 Drummond won one case brought by Collingsworth after a U.S. District Court jury in Birmingham, Alabama, concluded the company didn’t aid or abet the killers. Another suit was dismissed in 2012.

In the current case, filed in 2009, Collingsworth is suing the company and three current and former executives. The suit charges that Drummond Co. paid right-wing paramilitaries to terrorize the population along the 120-mile (190-kilometer) rail line from Drummond’s two mines to its port on the Caribbean, torturing and killing innocent people to keep them from giving haven to the FARC. Collingsworth sued Garry Neil Drummond personally for the same allegations in February.

Collingsworth brought his first suit as general counsel for the International Labor Rights Forum. He is now a Washington- based partner at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, law firm Conrad & Scherer LLP. He has made his claims in part under the 1789 Alien Tort Statute, which gives federal courts jurisdiction to hear complaints from non-U.S. citizens for violations of international law. He says he’s suing in the U.S. instead of Colombia partly out of concern for the safety of the plaintiffs.

Sold Stake

In numerous filings in the case, Drummond Co. and its CEO have denied any links to murders in Colombia. The company’s lawyer in the Colombian matters, William Jeffress of Houston- based Baker Botts LLP, declined to comment.

The Colombian mines are crucial to Drummond Co., which had revenue of $3 billion in 2012, based on the volume of its coal shipments. The company estimates its coal reserves at 2.2 billion tons, 2 billion of which are in Colombia, according to the company’s website. In 2011, when coal prices were higher, Drummond Co. sold a 20 percent stake in the Colombian operations to Tokyo-based Itochu Corp. for $1.5 billion. Based on that sale, the Colombian mines were worth $7.5 billion. Two years later, the fall in the coal price makes them worth less than $3 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg comparing Drummond with publicly listed coal companies.

A Billionaire

Garry Neil is one of two surviving heirs of Heman Drummond, who founded the company in 1935. When Heman died in 1956, he left the company to his seven children. Today, Garry Neil owns 100 percent of the capital stock in Drummond Co., according to an April report by business information provider Dun & Bradstreet Corp. If that’s correct, Garry Neil is a billionaire. Bradley, the spokesman, declined to comment on the company’s ownership.

Drummond is still charging hard at 75. He often works seven days a week, says Mike Zervos, who was president of mining operations at Drummond until 2004 and remains friends with Garry Neil. The pair spent many Sundays talking about conveyor-belt design and other improvements for the Colombian mines, Zervos says. “He’s the hardest worker in the coal business,” he says. “I know he’s worth a lot, but he earned it.”

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