Vedanta’s N-links strain relations with UK church
The Church of England is under pressure to give up its stake in a controversial Orissa-based mining group, Vedanta, after it emerged that the firm supplies materials to India's nuclear missile programme.Updated: Aug 04, 2009, 00:03 IST
The Church of England is under pressure to give up its stake in a controversial Orissa-based mining group, Vedanta, after it emerged that the firm supplies materials to India's nuclear missile programme.
Bauxite mined by Vedanta Resources from a sacred Indian mountain will be used to produce components for the country's military, the Guardian has learned, bringing a potential conflict between the church's ethical investment policy and £2.5m stake in the company. Several local councils also have stakes in the firm.
A spokesman for Vedanta confirmed that bauxite from the mine would be supplied to its Balco subsidiary but insisted that the company was only involved in the production of metals for the weapons, rather than the weapons themselves.
“What these guys sell is the refined aluminium which can then be used for all sorts of things, they are not actually involved in manufacturing weapons," he said. Balco supplies 90% of the aluminium used in India's nuclear-capable Agni, Prithvi and Akaash missiles.
Vedanta's plan to mine at Niyamgiri in the eastern state of Orissa has prompted a barrage of criticism from environmental activists, who claim it will displace the 8,000 strong Dongria Kondh tribe and wreck the delicate ecosystem of the area. The hill is regarded as sacred by the tribe.
Last week activists including Bianca Jagger targeted the British company's annual meeting, hoping to persuade shareholders to force the company to abandon plans for the mine.
Those shareholders include the Church of England, which has a £2.5m holding in Vedanta. It has already promised that its Ethical Investment Advisory Group will hold talks with the company's management over the mining plans.
But today's revelation will heap further pressure on the church, which has a policy of not investing in companies that supply or manufacture armaments.
A spokesman for the EIAG said: "We are taking the allegations about Vedanta's Niyamgiri operations and plans very seriously and we will make our assessment as quickly as possible."