Church Drops Vedanta over Ethical Concerns

By Dawber, Alistair | The Independent (London, England), February 6, 2010 | Go to article overview
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Church Drops Vedanta over Ethical Concerns

Dawber, Alistair, The Independent (London, England)

CoE investment has risen by nearly 300% in past year

THE CHURCH of England yesterday offloaded its stake in the controversial FTSE 100-listed mining group Vedanta Resources, saying that the company's respect for human rights fell below its standards.

The Church is the latest in a string of organisations to attack the India-based miner over concerns about the safety of its alumina refinery in Lanjigarh in Orissa state, and its planned bauxite mine at the nearby Niyamgiri mountain. Pressure groups such as Survival International allege that the mine will destroy local forests, while the mountain itself is considered sacred by the local Dongria Kondh tribe.

John Reynolds, the chairman of the Church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG), said: "After six months of engagement, we are not satisfied that Vedanta has shown, or is likely in future to show, the level of respect for human rights and local communities that we expect of companies in whom the Church investing bodies hold shares."

The Church has made a lot of money from its Vedanta shares. The company's stock has increased by a massive 296.2 per cent in the last 12 months as production targets have been surpassed and the global commodity market has recovered. The Church has hitherto defended its stake by arguing that it is better able to influence the companies in which it has shares.

Vedanta, and its billionaire chairman Anil Agarwal, has consistently refused to discuss the concerns raised by Survival, but in a statement issued yesterday, it said: "We are disappointed by the Church of England's decision to sell their holding in Vedanta.

"Vedanta remains fully committed to pursuing its investments in a responsible manner, respecting the environment and human rights.

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