An investigation by The Ecologist magazine and The Independent newspaper has revealed how leading banks, insurance providers, car manufacturers and brewery chains – amongst others – have pension funds or similar schemes invested in a company responsible for a controversial mine in Orissa which threatens, according to campaigners, to devastate a vital forest ecosystem and the homes of an unique tribal community.
Church organisations, charities and local authorities were also revealed as being shareholders in Vedanta Resources, a UK-registered, FTSE-100 listed company. Many of the investments are managed by third party fund managers.
Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite Industries Ltd wants to begin mining for bauxite – a raw form of aluminium – in the north western part of the Niyamgiri hills, in India’s Orissa state. The scheme was given the final go-ahead by the Indian Supreme Court after a protracted legal battle.
Government reports and research compiled by campaign groups has warned that the mining operation, which will see the extraction of millions of tons of bauxite from some 600 hectares of forest, will result in ecological degradation that could threaten the livelihoods of tribal people who rely on the land for sustaining their traditional way of life.
A nearby bauxite refinery, already constructed by another Vedanta subsidiary, Vedanta Alumina Ltd, to process bauxite from the proposed mine, has been blamed by local people for causing health problems, damaging crops and killing livestock. The refinery currently handles bauxite brought in from other regions and is expected to be expanded.
Campaigners claim several villages were razed to make way for construction of the Lanjigarh refinery, with up to 100 indigenous families evicted from their land and relocated to ‘rehabilitation colonies’ where locals claim they feel as though they are living ‘in a jail’ with little access to land for farming.
UPDATE: The Church of England has recently suspended its investments in Vedanta, following lobbying by campaign groups and publicity around the issue.