Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Sunday, 26 July 2009 16:15 UK

Anglican Church in India mine row

By Alastair Lawson
BBC News

Bianca Jagger
Bianca Jagger is supported by UK-based campaign groups

Environmental campaigner Bianca Jagger has called on the Church of England to rethink its investment in a company involved in an Indian mining project.

Ms Jagger says the operation is taking place on a mountain considered sacred by the tribe that lives there.

She has announced plans to hold a protest at the annual meeting of the UK-based company behind the mining project on Monday.

The Church said that it was "concerned" about the allegations.

A spokesman told the BBC it was reviewing its involvement with the company, Vedanta.

Vedanta insists the mining project in the remote and inaccessible Niyamgiri hills in the eastern Indian state of Orissa is ethically and environmentally sound.

'Totally unethical'

Ms Jagger is supported by UK-based campaign groups, including ActionAid and Survival International.

Vedanta factory

"I appeal to the Church of England to realise that this mining project not only endangers the culture and beliefs of the tribal community but is also extremely damaging to the environment," she said.

"It will have a severe impact on wildlife in the area - including leopards and tigers - in addition to destroying rivers, streams and plant life."

The Church has shares in Vedanta worth £2.5m ($4.1m).

Vedanta is about to start mining bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills, to be processed at a refinery that has already been built in the area.

Bauxite is used to make aluminium.

The company and its Indian partner have been accused of forcing people to move from the land.

Orissa map

Many tribal peoples in the area are animists and regard the Niyamgiri hills as sacred.

Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group spokesman Edward Mason said that he would meet tribal representatives and officials from Vedanta to discuss the project, which was a cause of concern.

"We are keen to use our influence as a shareholder to improve corporate behaviour," he said. "We work to a robust ethical investment policy... in areas where there are concerns we talk with the companies and hear what they have to say and what we expect from them."

A statement by Vedanta issued to the BBC said that the company was committed to developing the project "in line with the best international standards for environmental management" and in such a way that it benefited people living in the region.

"We are proceeding with the project on the basis agreed with the Indian Supreme Court, and we urge campaigning groups to respect the decision of the legitimate authority in India, the world's largest democracy," the statement said.

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