Friday, December 20, 2013

Drummond Gets Fined - But It's All Fine

Coal pollution in Santa Marta Bay.
The Ministry of the Environment hit Drummond with a heavy fine - by Colombian standards - for spilling some 500 tons of coal off of barge into Santa Marta Bay in January and delaying reporting it. The company is also required, among other things, to clean the bay's floor of coal and pay for a public environmental education campaign.

The fine of 6.97 billion pesos, or about $3.6 million, is a lot of money to you or me, but amounts to about 0.12% of Drummond's 2012 revenue of around $3 billion. I suspect that Drummond has insurance and that these are just routine operating expenses for the multinational.

Drummond says that the accident "could have happened to anyone" and that only a coal slurry was dumped into the water to prevent an even worse disaster.

And the coal business is profitable enough that, despite the potential for more fines, Drummond, plans to continue loading coal the dangerous, dirty and old fashioned way off of Santa Marta. Six years ago, the ministry gave coal companies until Jan. 1, 2014 to build safer direct-loading coal terminals and eliminate those dirty barges. Other coal companies have made the change, but Drummond apparently found it cheaper - even with the fines - and easier to continue using dirty barges than to meet the deadline. The company now says it will build a new loading system by next March.

In announcing the fine, Minister of the Environment Luz Helena Sarmiento emphasized that nobody, but nobody, gets away with violating those tough Colombian environmental laws.

"In Colombia, it won't continue happening that nothing is done to those who don't comply with the law," she said. "There will be daily sanctions, no matter which company it is, nor the resources it has."

Related posts:

Colombia "On the Verge of an Environmental Disaster."

Colombia's Real Coal Crisis

Drummond Coal's Cynical Strategy

But I guess the minister's strong words don't apply to air pollution violations.

Where are those 'daily sanctions' when we need them?

So, when will something happen to this bus that's not complying with the law?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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