Colombia's government has ended a nearly month long ban on coal shipments by Alabama-based Drummond Co. that was imposed after it dumped tons of coal into the ocean at a Caribbean port.
The Environment Ministry said Friday that an investigation expected to lead to sanctions would continue into the Jan. 12-13 incident, in which an unspecified amount of coal was dumped into the ocean during rough weather.
The ministry imposed the ban Feb. 6, demanding a new contingency plan from Drummond.
The coal giant released findings from its investigation February 14 on its website. Along with those findings, the coal company published a statement about the incident:
"Drummond regrets the occurrence of this industrial accident but that is exactly what it was, an industrial accident with no intent to harm the environment but conversely actions were taken to minimize damage to the environment. Despite the most careful attention to detail and planning to avoid this type of incident, industrial accidents do occur. Drummond is a large and loyal investor in Colombia that recognizes its responsibility to the environment and to the people of Colombia. In the aftermath of the accident, and because of the intellectual assault on Drummond by many critics, Drummond feels like a victim themselves.
In the port operations of Drummond in Cienaga since 1995, the Company has had no major accidents. We do have comprehensive management plans for environmental control at all locations. We have recently made significant investments at the mines which use state of the art environmental control measures by world standards.
We believe that the new, direct ship loading facility which we are currently investing $350 million to build will make our operations even safer in the area, since they will eliminate the need for barges to haul coal. The new direct ship loading system will be operational by the end of this year.
We are proud of our overall record in Colombia. Drummond is a responsible corporate citizen, providing over 8,000 jobs at the various locations and numerous offsite indirect jobs. Drummond contributes tens of millions of dollars per year to community development projects, taxes and royalties, which are all important to the enhancement of the area. We are a long time investor in Colombia and we will work for the betterment of Colombia as a whole."
Drummond produces 24 million metric tons of coal in Colombia from an open pit mine near the Caribbean and moves the coal by train to a port near Santa Marta. It is the South American country's No. 2 producer of coal, accounting for nearly a quarter of output.
Copyright 2013 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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