Scottish firm pulls out of Vedanta over Orissa mining project

August 14th, 2008 - 11:20 am ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 14 (IANS) British mining company Vedanta suffered a setback to its controversial mining contract in Orissa as green groups pressurised a Scottish firm to pull its shares out of the company. Martin Currie Investment Management, a Scottish biggie, Wednesday night withdrew its shares worth 2.3 million pounds in Vedanta whose subsidiary, Sterlite, has won a bauxite mining contract in the eastern Indian state.

Tribals living in the region are protesting the contract, claiming Sterlite will desecrate the mountain they worship as a god. Several green groups are trying to stifle Sterlite’s progress, having taken up the tribals’ cause.

Green group Survival International’s Stephen Corry described the move as a victory for the tribals. “By their own admission, Martin Currie have disinvested from Vedanta because of uncertainty over the future of the Niyamgiri project, which is shaping up to be one of the most controversial industrial projects in the world.”

Scott White, director of corporate communications at Martin Currie, said: “We sent a detailed list of questions to Vedanta and spoke with Survival to discuss their claims. We received responses to our questions from Vedanta and had dialogue with Survival. The doubts over the issues with the bauxite project … led to exiting the stock.”

The only other investor to have withdrawn from Vedanta after pressure is the government of Norway, The Scotsman newspaper said.

Campaigners have also written to governments worldwide as well as local authorities in Britain and companies such as Dundee-based Alliance Trust, Standard Life, Barclays Bank, Abbey National and HSBC, asking them to sell Vedanta shares.

They have contacted the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Aberdeen, which have money in Vedanta through the Universities Superannuation Scheme, which has more than a million shares in the firm, worth about 18 million pounds.

A spokesman for Vedanta said he could not comment on Martin Currie’s withdrawal. He added: “There has been no displacement of indigenous people, as Survival International claims.”

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