Three members of United Self-Defense Forces (AUC) point with their weapons during a training session in a rural area of Puerto Asis, Putumayo province southern of Colombia. File photo by Jose Miguel Gomez/REUTERS

The Hague - A Dutch non-governmental group on Monday accused two coal mining companies in Colombia's restive northeast of having sponsored paramilitary groups to protect their business interests.

“Between 1996 and 2006 paramilitaries murdered 3 100 people and displaced 55 000 farmers from their land,” PAX for Peace said in a report, released in the Netherlands.

PAX, a Christian-based NGO situated in the central city of Utrecht accused US-based coal company Drummond and Colombia-based Prodeco - a subsidiary of global mining giant Glencore - of benefiting from these rights abuses.

“Perpetrators and witnesses say the mining companies and paramilitaries' collaboration consisted of exchanging material support and strategic information,” PAX said in the 141-page report entitled “The Dark Side of Coal”.

“Until today, the mining companies are profiting from gross violations of human rights. Confiscated land still lies within their territory,” PAX added.

It called upon Dutch companies like Nuon, Essent and others not to buy “blood coal” from these companies until victims were compensated.

For a decade after 1996, Colombia's Cesar province was rife with paramilitaries brought in to protect coal mining interests against attacks from other guerilla groups in the province which borders Venezuela, PAX said.

Paramilitary units were disbanded in Cesar after inking a peace agreement with the Colombian government “but soon after demobilisation it became apparent that violence and human rights allegations had continued.”

The paramilitaries also murdered and threatened trade unionists or other critics, it added.

Both Drummond and Prodeco's Swiss-based parent Glencore have vehemently denied the claims.

“Drummond is a company respectful of Colombian law and reaffirms it has also stood outside of the armed conflict,” in the country, it said in a statement.

Glencore said the report was “unbalanced and twisted, blindly following the allegations of convicted felons”.

Colombia's oil and mining sector continue to be a main target for rebel attacks, hostage taking and other acts of sabotage.