Church of England exits Vedanta over ‘ethics'

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London-listed Vedanta Resources came under further pressure over ethics as Britain's Church of England said it was selling all its shares in the company, worth around £3.8 million.

“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 Mr John Reynolds, the chairman of the Church's Economic Investment Advisory Group, which acts as the main advisor to the Church Commissioners and the Church of England Pensions Board.
He said that the company had begun to examine its position in Vedanta following allegations about Vedanta's alumina refinery in Lanjigarh, Orissa, as well as its project in the Niyamgiri Hills.

“The Church's unprecedented and very welcome decision sends a strong signal to companies that trample on tribal people's rights: we will not bankroll your abuses,” said Mr Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, an international organisation supporting tribal people.

The Church of England's disinvestment follows similar moves by foreign organisations, including the Norwegian Government, which sold its $13-million stake in 2007, and Martin Currie Investments which sold its £2.3-million stake in 2009. BP has also cut its stake in the company.

Shares of Vedanta Resources fell steeply in London on Friday and were down over 3 per cent in the afternoon, well below the rest of the mining sector. The company was not available for comment at the time of publication.

Vedanta is currently mired in a number of controversies – in November, a number of officials were arrested at Bharat Aluminium Co plant in Chhattisgarh after the collapse of a chimney killed over 40 people.

More information from: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2010/02/06/stories/2010020653080100…

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