Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Friday, 5 February 2010

Church of England withdraws from India mining project

Dhongria girl
The Dhongria Kondh say their way of life is threatened

The Church of England has said that it will withdraw investment from a firm involved in a controversial mining project in the Indian state of Orissa.

In a statement released on Friday, the church said that it was not satisfied that the company, Vedanta, has shown enough respect for human rights.

Campaigners said that the lives of indigenous people were threatened by the mining project.

Vedanta has not commented on the church's move.

But in the past it has vigorously defended the project.

The church had a £2.5m ($4.1m) stake in Vedanta, which runs an alumina refinery in Lanjigarh, Orissa, and is planning a bauxite mine in the nearby Niyamgiri hills.

In a statement, the church said that it would be inconsistent with its ethical investment policy to maintain its Vedanta investment.

"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's Ethical Investment Advisory Group Chairman John Reynolds said.

Orissa map

"Our concern is that a company registered and listed in the UK should conform to the established environmental, social and governance norms expected in the London market - or at least reassure its shareholders that it is committed to the journey."

The church statement said that it "understands" that the Indian government is still considering whether to give final approval for the mine project.

The decision has been welcomed by campaigning groups including Survival International (SI) which has been lobbying the church to disinvest from Vedanta for more than a year.

SI says that the bauxite mine will destroy a large part of the Niyamgiri Mountain in Orissa, damaging the lives of Kondh tribes people who live in the area.

Needs 'ignored'

Vedanta has been accused of forcing tribal people off the land, damaging the environment and destroying wildlife.

No-one from the company was available to comment on the decision of the church.

But last year Vedanta argued that it had the support of the Orissa state government and the Indian judiciary - and that before it went ahead with the project it consulted exhaustively to assess its environmental and social impact.

The company accused campaigning groups of focusing their objections solely on the concerns of the tribal community and ignoring the needs of other people in the area for jobs and improvements in education and healthcare.

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Financial TimesChurch of England sells Vedanta stock in protest over mine - 36 hrs ago
Times Online Church of England sells shares over human rights - 40 hrs ago
Calcutta Telegraph Church wrath on Vedanta - 41 hrs ago
Telegraph Vedanta shares fall as Church of England sells entire stake - 45 hrs ago Church of England sells Vedanta stake over human rights concerns - 48 hrs ago
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