The Church of England has sold its two major holdings in the controversial British-owned mining company Vedanta Resources plc after admitting it has no confidence that the company is respecting the humans rights of the local communities the human rights of the local communities are being respected.
Vedanta has been criticised by NGOs and the UK Government for failing to properly consult tribal populations about plans for a bauxite mine in a remote part of eastern India. The mine would devastate a mountain that is considered sacred by the indigenous population.
An Ecologist investigation in 2009 revealed that the Church was among a host of well-known British companies and institutions who hold shares in the company.
Halifax Pension Fund, Lloyds TSB Group Pension Fund, Norwich Union Life and Pensions Ltd and Prudential Managed Pension Fund, Land Rover Pension Trustees Ltd and Unilever Pension Fund were among those listed as beneficial shareholders in the controversial mining conglomerate.
A number of local and regional authorities - including Suffolk County Council, Havering Borough Council and Hertfordshire County Council - also have investments and all are now under pressure to sell their holdings too.
The Church had sent a delegation to meet officials from the company in November 2009 to see for themselves the company's on-going mining activities.
However, after meeting senior management they had no confidence the company would improve its ethical behavior.
'I am a passionate advocate for engagement with companies when we have ethical concerns,' said John Reynolds, chairman of the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG).
'However, 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,' he said.
A spokesperson for Vedanta said the company was 'disappointed by the Church of England’s decision'.
'Vedanta remains fully committed to pursuing its investments in a responsible manner, respecting the environment and human rights. We work with a number of NGOs and with the authorities in India, the world's largest democracy, ensuring all our projects are conducted in compliance with the law and international best practice. We will continue to engage closely with the Church of England to address the concerns they have raised.'
The Indian government is still considering whether to give final approval for the mine project. But Survival International, which campaigns for indigenous rights, said the Church's decision had sent, 'a strong signal to companies that trample on tribal peoples' rights'.
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