Maputo — The Mozambican government and the French oil and gas company Total have announced that construction work will soon resume on natural gas liquefaction plants on the Afungi Peninsula, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, thanks to additional security measures now being taken in that area.
Work on the "Mozambique LNG" project, run by a consortium headed by Total, was interrupted at the end of December 2020, due to security threats in the immediate vicinity.
The worst incident was a clash between the police and terrorist infiltrators on 1 January in the resettlement town of Quitunda. This is a new town built to house people resettled from the areas of the Afungi Peninsula where the two planned gas liquefaction plants will be built.
"The terrorists tried to introduce their informants into Palma district, in order to create an attack situation", the local police commander told reporters. "The police became aware that they were in three houses in Quitunda. The police organised their teams to deal with the situation, and when they reached the place, they were received with gunshots. The police felt obliged to open fire, and a supposed terrorist informant was killed".
This exchange of gunfire occurred about three kilometres from Total's Afungi camp. Because of security fears, Total evacuated many of its staff from Afungi. Some were flown to the provincial capital, Pemba, while others were withdrawn to Palma town.
Since then the government and Total have been working to draw up a plan of action to strengthen security around the site including the neighbouring villages.
"The Government has declared the area of the Mozambique LNG Project as a special security zone", said a press release from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy. "A road map has been drawn up with measures and actions seeking to restore and strengthen security".
These measures include increasing the size of the contingent of the Mozambican defence and security forces stationed at Afungi. They will allow the gradual return of the workers who had been evacuated, and the resumption of construction activities.
Control over the Afungi special security area "continues to be guaranteed exclusively by the public security forces under the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the government and Total", said the release. The special security area covers the zone within a 25 kilometre perimeter around the LNG project.
"The Government of Mozambique is committed that the personnel assigned to the protection of Mozambique LNG shall act according to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR) and international human rights standards", said a Total statement on the resumption of activities, insisting that the project itself "does not use the services of any armed private security suppliers".
Total added that "Mozambique LNG has satisfied all the conditions precedent and complied with all relevant statutory requirements for the first debt drawdown of the project financing signed on 15th July 2020 with eight export credit agencies, 19 commercial banks and the African Development Bank. This first drawdown will take place at the beginning of April 2021".
Total remains optimistic that the project will be able to deliver its first shipment of LNG in 2024.
Total operates the project with a shareholding of 26.5 per cent. The other partners in the consortium are the Japanese company Mitsui (20 per cent), Mozambique's own National Hydrocarbon Company, ENH (15 per cent), PTTEP of Thailand (8.5 per cent), and the three Indian companies, ONGC Videsh, Beas Rovuma energy and BRPL Ventures (10 per cent each).