The Church of England has dropped is 3.8 million pound stake (5.9 million US dollars) in controversial mining company, Vedanta Resources, citing concern over the company’s human rights record. The Indian company has come under considerable criticism for its plan to build a bauxite mine on Niyamgiri Mountain, threatening the mountain, forests, and the local tribe Dongria Kondh tribe.
“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,” said John Reynolds, the chairman of the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG).
The company’s plan would be to mine bauxite directly out of Niyamgiri Mountain, which is considered sacred by the largely isolated Dongria Kondh tribe. The tribe, comprising around 8,000 people, live off forested lands along the mountain. In January of last year, 10,000 protestors formed a 17 kilometer (10.5 mile) human chain around the Niyamgiri Mountain area to protest the company’s plans and the government’s approval.
“The [Church of England’s] unprecedented and very welcome decision sends a strong signal to companies that trample on tribal peoples’ rights: we will not bankroll your abuses. Anybody that has shares in Vedanta should sell them today if they care about human rights,” said Stephen Corry, director of Survival International which has led opposition to Vendanta’s plans.
The company responded by saying: “We are disappointed by the Church of England’s decision to sell their holding in Vedanta,” adding that, “Vedanta remains fully committed to pursuing its investments in a responsible manner, respecting the environment and human rights.”
The FTSE 100-company has also been criticized for its treatment of local people at its Orissa plant.
In 2007, the Norwegian government dropped all of its stake in Vendanta due to similar concerns.
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