Maputo — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Thursday criticised those who complain that there are no immediate benefits from the discovery of mineral resources in the country.
Speaking in the southern city of Matola, at the opening of a session of the National Committee of the Association of Veterans of the National Liberation Struggle (ACLLN), Guebuza said that the minerals belong to all Mozambicans - but that extracting and marketing them will take a long time.
He noted that some people have asked "if we have coal, where are the gains?" But it took years to open coal mines and start exporting the coal.
Guebuza said that the Brazilian mining company Vale had started its exploratory work in Tete province in 2004, had signed a mining contract with the government in 2007, but had only begun to sell and export the coal in 2011.
As for the offshore deposits of natural gas, found in the Rovuma Basin, in the far north of the country, Guebuza said the gas would only be extracted as from 2018 "and exploiting just a part of this gas will require investment of around 18 billion US dollars - a value equivalent to everything the country produces in a year".
The figure of 19 billion dollars comes from the US company, Anadarko, which estimates it will to spend that much in extracting the gas and building an onshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant. Other major gas discoveries have been made in a different Rovuma Basin bloc by the Italian company, ENI.
To emerge from poverty, Guebuza stressed, Mozambicans must continue to work. Their capacity for hard work was already shown in the fact that, even without the Tete coal and Rovuma Basin gas, the country's economy was growing at an annual average rate of seven per cent.
He warned that, even when the coal and gas projects are in full production, they will not be able to employ all Mozambicans. It was thus important to develop other areas such as agriculture, agro-industry and tourism.
"The veterans are called upon to identify opportunities that arise around the major undertakings, in order to respond to the current and future challenges - just as you did in the past during the struggle for independence", he urged.
Guebuza stressed that 2012 is a special year for the veterans because it is the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo). The commemorations will reach their climax with the Tenth Frelimo Congress, to be held in the northern city of Pemba in September.
"This year also marks the 20th anniversary of peace, which will be commemorated on 4 October" (the anniversary of the 1992 agreement signed in Rome between Guebuza's predecessor, Joaquim Chissano, and the leader of the Renamo rebels, Afonso Dhlakama).
The peace that Mozambicans are now consolidating, Guebuza said, "is an indispensable ingredient for the development and strengthening of national unity and fraternity"
Guebuza urged the veterans to take advantage of these anniversaries and use every opportunity to speak of the history of Mozambique, "for if we don't do it, nobody else will speak of our history so that others may listen and understand it".