Ahead of Elections, Colombia’s Santos Signals Tough Stance on Mining

Ahead of Elections, Colombia’s Santos Signals Tough Stance on Mining

When he took office in 2010, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos trumpeted mining as a “locomotive” that would drive the economy forward. Recently though, the Santos administration dealt a series of harsh blows to the country’s No. 2 coal exporter, Alabama-based Drummond Co., in response to a series of legal blunders committed in 2013. Coming down this hard on a company like Drummond is an unprecedented move for Colombia’s government, signaling that from here on out, multinationals that come to mine the country’s natural resources could face a new, hard-line stance when they don’t play by the rules.

The Drummond scandal broke out when Colombian photojournalist Alejandro Arias stumbled on the scene of a sinking coal barge off the Caribbean port city of Santa Marta. He snapped a series of blurry photographs and published them on his personal blog. Only through the media picking up the photos and circulating the story did Colombia’s Ministry of the Environment find out about an environmental catastrophe Drummond was supposed to alert them of immediately. Drummond sent in a formal announcement more than a week after the incident.

After nearly a year of investigation, Colombia fined Drummond twice: $3.5 million for environmental damage associated with the spill that it failed to report, and $100 million for back taxes it had neglected to pay. Then, on Jan. 1, the coal miner had its shipping license suspended for failure to comply with a regulation requiring it to upgrade its coal-loading system, a measure to guard against environmental damage. The suspension is yet another blow that will set the company back financially.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.