Charity sells its shares in 'immoral' Vedanta

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The Independent Online

Vedanta resources faced another damning indictment of its ethical record yesterday, when the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust sold its shares in the British mining company, saying its activities in India were "morally indefensible".

The trust is the latest in a string of organisations, including the Church of England, Amnesty and the British Government, to have attacked the FTSE 100 company over its environmental, ethical and human rights practices. Specifically, Vedanta has outraged investors with the safety record of its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Orissa state, and its planned bauxite mine at nearby Niyamgiri Mountain. Pressure groups such as Survival allege that the mine will destroy local forests, while the mountain itself is considered sacred by the Dongria Kondh tribe.

Vedanta insists its plans have the backing of the Indian authorities, but has repeatedly refused requests for interviews.

"As a responsible shareholder we have serious concerns about Vedanta," said Susan Seymour of the Rowntree trust's investment committee. "We have heard first-hand about Vedanta's environmental and human rights abuses in Orissa and believe Vedanta is pushing industrialisation to the detriment of the lives and lands of local people and at great risk to its own reputation."

The trust says it has voiced concerns for 18 months. It first invested in Vedanta in October 2008, when the company's shares traded at 750p a share. The stock was sold yesterday for 2500p.