Local stake in controversial miner sold
THE pensions of hundreds of Londonderry public sector workers are no longer financing controversial UK-mining firm Vedanta Resources, which was accused by Amnesty International of breaching people’s human rights through its bauxite and aluminium operation in Orissa, India, the Sentinel can reveal.
Within the last 12 months the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC) pension fund has offloaded a £1,165,695 (49,020 share) holding in Vedanta.
The decision to sell - taken by investment managers on behalf of NILGOSC - followed a high profile campaign by Amnesty over the development of a new bauxite mine and the expansion of an existing aluminium refinery at the foot of the Niyamgiri Hills.
NILGOSC was asked by the Sentinel if its move was for ethical concerns.
David Murphy, NILGOSC, Chief Executive and Secretary, said: “NILGOSC itself does not decide which shares to purchase or sell so we do not hold information as to the reason for the sale.”
Amnesty claimed the UK-based company was threatening the human rights of indigenous communities in Orissa and that villagers living near its refinery are imperilled by air choked with dust and a toxic waste pond right beside a local river.
But last year Vedanta issued a comprehensive response to Amnesty saying its plant is welcomed by the local population as a ‘significant opportunity for progress and growth.’
Until this year many local council workers, alongside staff at Ilex, WELB, NIHE, Magee, City of Derry Airport, NWRC, Ulsterbus and some local schools have unwittingly been investing in Vedanta through a NILGOSC pension fund which has been invested in a diverse portfolio of global shares, amongst them recession proof staples such as the military industrial complex, cigarettes, alcohol and gambling.
Ironically, almost half-a-million pounds are also invested in Raytheon on behalf of public sector workers across Northern Ireland, including thousands of workers in the North West. Raytheon Systems Limited left Londonderry in 2010 after a sustained campaign against their presence here.
The NI workers’ pension pot has also been poured into Honeywell International which tests, develops and stockpiles nuclear bombs at the Pantex Plant in Texas, for the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA); and Lockheed Martin which makes submarine launched ballistic missiles amongst other military hardware products. Money has also been poured into bookmakers William Hill and brewer Carlsberg.
Whilst NILGOSC’s stake in Vedanta has now been sold local workers are still helping to fund Raytheon (£416,148.96; 12,600 shares); Honeywell International (£813,872.63; 21,300 shares); Lockheed Martin Corp. (£534,235.64; 9,500 shares); William Hill (£8,084,800; 3,100,000 shares); Carlsberg (£3,067,338.79; 59,390 shares); British American Tobacco (£49,980,540.17; 1,586,432 shares); and the Imperial Tobacco Group (£11,412,493.95; 450,197 shares).
Vedanta responded in detail to Amnesty’s claims in its 156 page report ‘The Lanjigarh development story: Vedanta’s perspective.’
In a statement Chief Operating Officer at Vedanta Aluminium, Dr Mukesh Kumar, said the Lanjigarh Project was regarded by the local population as presenting a significant opportunity for progress and growth.
“As a company with its roots in India with global operations, Vedanta acknowledges its duty to value the socioeconomic landscape of the region, local culture and traditions, which it has endeavoured to safeguard and protect.
“Additionally, in its operations the company has ensured best in class technology and processes for our refinery with minimum environmental impact,” he stated.
He continued: “Today we have more than 2,500 employees and contractors, of whom a significant majority are locals.
“We have also created significant livelihood opportunities around our plant through various contractors/suppliers.
“Our community programmes target the key concerns of the locality such as health, education, empowerment of women and basic infrastructure development and we have made significant improvements on these fronts, which are evident from the statistical data published by the Government.
“To accelerate the process of development, and to avoid duplicating projects that are run by the State Government, Lanjigarh Project Area Development Foundation (LPADF) has been formed as required by the directives of the Honourable Supreme Court of India.
“The company will contribute 5 per cent of its profit from the Lanjigarh Project before interest and tax or USD 2.2 million per year, whichever is more, for the development of the area.”
NILGOSC boss, Mr Murphy told the Sentinel: “As we set out in our Statement of Investment Principles NILGOSC delegates the selection of investments held to its fund managers and does not impose any investment restrictions in regard of social, ethical and environmental issues.
“NILGOSC does not make any investments specifically for social, ethical and environmental reasons. However NILGOSC has instructed its active fund managers to take account of social, ethical and environmental considerations provided our primary financial obligation is not compromised.”
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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