Contract Worker Death Causes Safety Strike at Drummond in Colombia


In a unified response to safety shortfalls that killed a contract worker at Drummond Coal’s La Loma mine, 8,000 members of Sintramienergética and other contract staff stage a four-day strike late in March that shut production of Colombia’s second largest coal mine.

Dagoberto Clavijo Barranco, a one-month worker at La Loma who was put there through a labour agency, was killed on 23 March when the coal-hauling vehicle he was operating fell into an open-cast mine.

Drummond released all miners from work duties following the tragedy, but when the strike spread over the next few days because workers’ demanded improved safety, the company, in a statement, called the strike illegal.

A Sintramienergética leader said Drummond agreed to meet with the union to discuss safety but was “flippant” in stating that no amount of negotiations will improve safety conditions. The company, on 27 March, issued a further public statement after full production at La Loma resumed. This time Drummond said it regretted the accident and would continue its “best efforts together with the competent authorities to clear up this unfortunate incident.”

Drummond has had nine mining deaths at La Loma in César state over the past decade. Another three have occurred at its port facilities near Barranquilla.

In the days following the end of the safety strike, Drummond terminated 600 workers because of a strike by the transport union, Sintraime. Workers of coal-transport contractors Carbograneles and Fenoco (partially owned by Drummond) began strikes on 25 March, and these strikes were still underway late last week. Transport workers are striking for full union recognition on rail lines and at port facilities, as well as over overtime procedures.

The mining union Sintramienergética is insisting that Drummond recall the 600, claiming it has no responsibility in the transport strike.

Drummond directly or indirectly employs 9,000 workers at La Loma, and the American company will soon start up its El Descanso mine in César state, a US$1.8 billion investment that will increase the company’s coal production to 27 million tones annually.