Drummond, now 75, started working in his family’s coal mines around Jasper, Alabama, at 15. As an executive in 1969, he negotiated an export deal with a Japanese trading company and fulfilled the commitment by strip mining Alabama’s hills with colossal shovels and trucks. When those reserves dwindled, Drummond Co. opened its first mine in Colombia in 1995. It came under attack from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a group that had been at war with the government since the 1960s. Garry Neil is one of two surviving heirs of Heman Drummond, who founded the company in 1935. When Heman died in 1956, he left the company to his seven children. Today, Garry Neil owns 100 percent of the capital stock in Drummond Co., according to an April report by business information provider Dun & Bradstreet Corp. If that’s correct, Garry Neil is a billionaire. Garry Neil Drummond’s newest project, if he goes ahead with it, would be a mine on the banks of the Black Warrior River, near where the city of Birmingham draws its water. Shepherd Bend LLC, a Drummond holding, obtained a permit to mine there from the Alabama Surface Mining Commission in 2010. Much of the land is owned by the University of Alabama, where Drummond is a trustee emeritus. Four years ago, Garry Neil broke with precedent and hired his nephew, Segal “Ed” Drummond Jr., as executive vice president. Ed resigned earlier this year, the company says. About 100 Drummonds gathered for Easter this year, Carolyn “Cappie” Drummond, who’s Ed Drummond’s wife, says in a telephone interview. Asked why Garry Neil doesn’t retire, she says: “He’s done it all his life. He’s a conqueror.” It was Garry Neil who vaulted the regional miner into international markets. After earning a civil engineering degree from the University of Alabama in 1961, he went to work full time in the family business. Drummond has five children. One is a vascular surgeon in Birmingham. Another, Gary with one “r”, died in 2008 at 51. The same year, the University of Alabama established the Gary Drummond Jr. Memorial Research Award to study schizophrenia.