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Terror attacks bring Mozambique gas projects to a halt

Dozens of South African oil, gas and construction companies affected in what is a massive setback for the entire region.
People displaced by the attacks on the town of Palma flee to safety with meagre possessions. Image: Alfredo Zuniga, AFP via Getty Images

Some $60 billion in natural gas projects off the coast of northern Mozambique have been violently disrupted following an attack by Islamic State-backed terrorists on the town of Palma on March 24 this year, resulting in dozens being killed and more than 100 000 fleeing the area for safety.

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The African Energy Chamber says more than 700 000 people have already fled their homes in northern Mozambique as a result of the ongoing insurgency, and the count is still rising.

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According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, the number could top one million by the middle of the year if the international community does not take steps to end the conflict.

There is talk of a joint Southern African Development Community (SADC) military force being sent to the area to quell an insurgency that has been gaining momentum since 2017.

Bad timing

Energy Voice reports that the attacks began on March 24, the same day French energy company Total announced a new security deal with the Mozambican government which would allow the company to return to work on the natural gas project in the area, having previously suspended work in January after a number of attacks close to its onshore production facilities.

Total has again put its plans to return to work on hold.

Dozens of South African oil, gas and construction companies are on-site in Palma, which is home to one of the largest gas investment projects in the world – a project that will transform Mozambique into the world’s third-largest natural gas producer.

South African security contractor Dyck Advisory Group is providing support to the Mozambican army in the area.

Earlier this year, Sasol announced that it would proceed with plans to supply gas to a 450 megawatt (MW) power plant in Mozambique, along with a liquid natural gas plant, with surplus feedstock being exported to SA. The project is expected to cost $760 million and commence supplies in 2024.

Security costs

But with the latest terror attacks, project delays and security concerns will add to costs. Total in a statement said its primary concern is the welfare of its workers.

Few companies are going to send staff back into areas that have suffered such intense casualties.

The areas have already attracted more than $50 billion worth of investment commitments from consortia led by major international oil companies such as Total, Italy’s Eni, and US-based ExxonMobil. Total and its partners have already invested heavily in an onshore base and liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on the Afungi Peninsula.

Separatists strike

In a statement, the African Energy Chamber noted with alarm that the separatist militia known as Haul Sunnah Wa-Jamo (ASWJ) had stepped up its campaign to seize territory in Cabo Delgado, the country’s northernmost province.

More than 100 ASWJ fighters attacked Palma from three sides after a cessation of seasonal rains. Mozambique’s Defence and Security Forces, known locally as SDS, moved in quickly and mounted a counterattack the next day, but they were not able to regain control immediately.

The government in Maputo has pledged to work with Total to establish a safe zone around the gas complex on the Afungi Peninsula, but the fact that the attacks on Palma occurred inside the perimeter of the designated zone suggests far more will have to be done to cordon off the area.

US and Portugal assist 

Last month, Mozambique invited US military advisors and special forces into the country to deliver counter-terrorism training. Maputo has also accepted an offer from Portugal, its former colonial ruler, to provide additional training for the Mozambican armed forces.

“The investment going into this area will be more than $100 billion over the next decade, and this is of huge importance to the South African economy,” says NJ Ayuk, executive chair of the African Energy Chamber.

“The gas coming from Mozambique will allow SA to wean itself off coal as a source of power, and will contribute to reducing the country’s carbon footprint.”

“This is a massive setback not just for Mozambique and SA, but for the whole region. These attacks were targeted against oil and gas facilities, and happened just days after Total announced it [would] resume work in the area.

“A lot of South Africans are already working in the area, and a lot more were due to be relocated there to work on the gas projects.”

Strategic attack

The Mozambican army says it killed dozens of terrorists and claims to have recovered control of the Cabo Delgado district, of which Palma is the oil and gas hub. 

“We can argue about climate change and whether oil and gas are bad,” says Ayuk. “But this investment in Mozambique will lift that country out of poverty, and there will be spillover benefits for SA, so we all have an interest in seeing order being restored to the region.”

Ayuk warns that unless Mozambique’s friends and neighbours assist it in restoring order, terrorism will be exported to other parts of the continent.

“Don’t imagine that these terrorist attacks will magically stop in Mozambique,” he says.

“Yes, right now they are trying to disrupt massive oil and gas development in and around Palma, but they will not stop there. Their plan is to establish a caliphate in this area.

“We need a co-ordinated response from the region to snuff out these terrorists before they gain a stronger foothold in this region, which has mercifully been relatively free of this kind of terror.”

Bigger plans

The African Energy Chamber says the Mozambican gas complex, which is just a few kilometres from Palma, will support upstream development work at the offshore block known as Area 1.

If the project is prevented from being completed, Total will have a hard time proceeding with its $20 billion Mozambique LNG project — and Eni and ExxonMobil will have a hard time following suit with their own South Coral LNG and Rovuma LNG projects, says the Chamber.

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COMMENTS   31

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It never ceases to amaze me what poor socio-econimic justice proponets are these large corporations that go all over the planet, to find huge deposits of resources under the feet of local poeple, and instead of negotiating mutually beneficial outcomes, proceed to extract those riches, convey them past the hungry people, while they themselves live on a lap of luxury under the noses of locals, exploiting them to the fullest, and then turn around and steal theold and tattered (metaphorical) shirt off of the backs of the local people. This approach is not sustainable and judging by what is happening in Mozambique, people won’t stand for it anymore. The companies would be well served to conduct mutual benefit survey pacts where the locals own a good size of the resource in their area and that resource is used for general development of the people (not like the benefit two or three politically connected individuals like the ANC BEE schemes in SA). This way you avert conflict, build trust, and good will and build a long term sustainable resource extraction while you develop the community for a hopeful future.

You do realise this is terrorist group and not the will of the people. Do you really think having mutual relationships with locals will stop terrorist organisations, who have their own agenda or do you think giving these groups money to fund their cause would be better?

Isn’t it fascinating how ISIS keeps popping up in oil rich areas, from the Caucuses to Southern Africa.

Ever heard of royalties and companies tax? Perhaps governments should allocate a % of royalties collected from a project for use in the area of the project instead of all the money disappearing down the black hole of a government budget.

These companies build roads, often put up power plants, employees support the local economy by renting, buying food etc. To say there is no benefit is incorrect. Unfortunately much of the funds flowing through doesn’t benefit ground level, but only politicians

Such poor and naive insight to display! Why do you think the Mozambican defence forces rushed to the scene to try and fight off the terrorists? To protect a foreign company or the well-being of their own?

It is exactly these ‘poor locals’ going through this terror – and certainly not because of a large corporate trying to mine local resources. Be assured that there would have been long negotiations as to the ‘taxes, terms and conditions’ whereby Total was allowed this deal to proceed.

The locals were poor and desperate and will remain so if this deal falls through – and expect them to jump the fence and undercut our own local, poor population’s labour rates if they don’t find employment and well-being in their own country.

@BageSuge. You are very close with your comments. Read mine further below. It’s more to do with an INTERNAL/CIVIL REBELLION than an attack by ‘external’ forces. This is rebellion of Mozambicans (with some outside help) that are not Frelimo supporters, against a Govt that takes all wealth for ‘the party’ and its elites.

Precisely …. as happens all over Africa.

The revenue from the oil/gas companies is expected to be $95B over the 25 year project life. A massive contribution to the GDP of Mozambique. This is no guarantee though, especially now with the terrorists and that people are moving to greener energy sources.

Greed plagues the planet as per usual. Unfortunately.

The very last thing this project needs is SANDF forces anywhere near real fighting with bullets !

No worries – if the bullets start to fly the SANDF will be rapidly re deployed to keep people of the Cape beaches !!

My hope is that the Zimbabwean Navy is used to good effect.

Don’t forget the amazing southern african airforces.

…you joke, but the Zimbabwe Navy has even two Submarines in service….”Croc-1″ and “Croc-2” 😉

I anticipate an imminent submarine torpedo attack from Zim. If anyone step on such ‘torpedoes’, you will need a stick and water to neutralise the impact off the soles of your boots! *lol*

Frelimo has been killing people for a while in the north and this has made them fight back and join forces with ISIS.

The illegal killings by the Miz Govt forces are the original problem.

Bla, bla, bla,
Leave SASOL out of this their existing site is over 1,500km away from troubled spot and to date in close on 20 years zero problems with the locals.
At least here we given a number on quantity of insurgents but there are still more ? than =
How many insurgents killed since 2017 ? evidence please, as in core reality, body audits + real IDs, graves ? how many captured ? ok never mind, that gets complicated.
How hard can it be to find ± 100 insurgents within a ± 6,000km² area, surely Moz has 1,000 troops to systematically flush them out ? Question being can they even feed the 1,000 troops ? never mind equip them or supply 1,000 pairs of boots ?!
The insurgents are they local or imports ?
Do they operate from within Moz or do they come in from the north in Tanzania ?
Or maybe they come in from the south from the heart of Moz ?
Dyk Advisory Group who issued their requisition + PO and which treasury is paying them ?
The insurgents, who certifies them, who leads them, which risk committee approves each attack, who arranges logistics ?
The latest attack, did they arrive on foot ? trucks ? mini/large-bus ? Oriental 4×4 branded double cabs, they did not fly in on helicopters like the Dyk defenders ?!
Their only link to any Islamic body is the fact that they are using “catanas” (Machetes) for the dismembering of their victims, they have a much stronger link to the US$ than any other affiliation !
In all of the offensive manoeuvres by Moz in four years what have they captured from the insurgents, a flag, uniforms, arms, head gear, food packs, propaganda paperwork ?!
Reverse it, how much have Moz defence force lost in the last 4 years ? as in HR and resources ?
The more confusion and isolation the easier and cheaper the extraction of natural resources, Libya !? Cabinda the 100% isolated province of Angola !? only but 2x prime examples.

In SA we have a similar situation.

Its called the construction mafia.

They do what they want and are armed to the teeth and the government leave them be.

Listen to what NJ Ayuk says in this article.

It is disgusting that I had to see what is happening with our neighbours on YouTube (CNN and Skynews) and NOT via our local news channels. Terrible terror that is happening to those people in Mozambique.

I wonder why our local news channels do not run this news. Decapitated bodies of children in the streets not news worthy?

This is another example of the African Resource Curse that results from the absence of property rights and the rule of law. African collectivism concentrates the power, and therefore the wealth of resources, in the hands of the politically connected elite who, in typical communalist fashion, exploit that community to the fullest.

In Mozambique, it is gas. In South Africa, it is Eskom, the SOEs, BEE and cadre-deployment. There is no difference between the fighting at Cabo Delgado and the fighting at Luthuli House. People kill each other for municipal jobs and for contracts with the state. The ANC government is a little more sophisticated than the Mozambicans, but the causes and the results are similar. We are a resource-rich nation, but the communist Mining Charter keeps that wealth locked underground and the people in poverty.

They are fighting over the “shared” resources, that per definition belongs to nobody. It is a free-for-all, a feeding frenzy, first-come-fist-serve. The recipe for anarchy and hunger.

When a nation that does not understand, respect and uphold property rights, discover something of value, they start killing each other for that wealth. This is the unavoidable consequence of African communalism.

Property is the basis of the law. Without property rights, there cannot be law and order. Communalism is the opposite of law and order. It is the rule of man or dictatorship. We are ruled by the few delinquents in Luthuli House, even though we are supposed to be a constitutional democracy. This is the typical failure of socialism.

“The resource curse (also known as the paradox of plenty) refers to the failure of many resource-rich countries to benefit fully from their natural resource wealth, and for governments in these countries to respond effectively to public welfare needs.” – Natural Resource Governance Institute.

JapieM and BageSuge’s comment rings more true.

I’ve read detailed opinion that this is nothing more than an INTERNAL REBELLION taking place, which the (Frelimo) Govt wants to suppress. The preferred story-line (for Moz govt) is to make it believe there’s an attack by external forces on Moz, hence they require help from other countries (to help squash internal unrest/rebellion.)

This northern part of Moz is not a Frelimo political stronghold. Frelimo (like the ANC) has kept the country’s wealth to themselves and their political connected elite. The Mozambicans in this northern part are left marginalised and in poverty, while those connected to Frelimo have access through such deals with private exploration companies.

Some say the Moz civil war has not truly ended, and this is a resurgence (or continuation) what has been fighting for.

The ‘Al-Shabaab’ is just a group being given a name by the locals, without any links to the ISIS-supported Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram. Media sites have been repeatedly copying each other’s news reports, and keep drumming up the same fake story of a country being under so-called attack from external Islam forces.

This is an INTERNAL/CIVIL uprising by marginalised Mozambicans, mostly who do not support the (thieving…like the ANC) Frelimo regime, and now that wealth is discovered on their doorsteps, and don’t want to give it away to the connected political elite.

And THIS is what is happening in many African countries…a few benefit well, while majority remains poor. The ANC (and some other SADC regimes) is afraid this could spill-over to SA, where the poor rise against the elite….like we see in (ongoing) service delivery protests in various SA towns…just on a bigger militant scale.

The civil war in Moz has just reignited!

MichaelfromKlerksdorp, this is very true. Yes the media seem to have no knowledge of the history of the Cabo Delgado region of Moz.

Since Frelimo came into power in the mid-1970s, they have fought Renamo, who had bases in the middle and northern parts of the country. This was basically a no-go area for anyone belonging to Frelimo. No government officials ever went to the North of the country, there has been zero interest in its development. People living there have continued to live and work totally independently of the Frelimo government, the officials of which have been quite contented to stay fixed in Maputo. occasionally visiting Beira only.

Another factor is that the Eastern coast of Africa is largely Muslim and has been so for centuries. From Somalia to just north of Maputo.

So the locals, seeing suddenly the massive natural gas development of the Afungi Peninsula and in Pemba and Palma. They also find out that this has the potential to bring to the country four times its current GDP. And they find that they will benefit nothing, sweet nothing, from this, it will go to the exploration companies and to the Moz. government, read that as senior Frelimo cadres.

So they rebel, they get military resources and training from IS institution to wage war against Frelimo, as they have done in the past.

This uprising is not an insurgency from any foreign country, it is the local population rebelling, Again. This will not stop until here is a diplomatic solution for development of the Northern regions of the country.

The media “reporting” on this simply re-hash stories that other media have assumed and created. Have any credible media reporters or investigators been there to speak to the ASWJ? I don’t see any evidence of this, mostly just citing the Frelimo line.

Well said, The Navigator. I omitted the Renamo (opposition party) involvement (as Oubok mentioned), and with some help from other splinter groups from outside. All internal/domestic strife.

On the other hand, IF it ever was possible that (the real) Al-Shabaab or Boko Haram would gain control of SA’s central govt…it would be in the country’s best interests to leave them in control, especially as the public starts to realise that the new regime steals & wastes LESS than the current ANC 😉

Exactly…Renamo’s offspring at work there.

Over and above the precepts of “the resource curse”, this situation is showing all the signs of activity by the “economic hit men”.

These acolytes serve the Western corporate agenda underpinning the petrodollar hegemony which maintains the USD as the overvalued currency of corporate globalists and their oligarch megalomaniac bosses.

The AU/ SA rushing in to protect these multinational interests would simply entrench globalist corporate interests at our national expense. This is exactly what those stirring the unrest behind the scenes would like.

As with the conflict in Syria, it is the CIA and Israeli-backed Mosad who stir the pot behind the scenes with investment into so-called ISIS “Muslim fundamentalists”… such a coincidence the same crew is implicated behind the scenes here?

Although LPG gas is an intermediate step to reduced carbon footprint from the energy sector, it is by no means a clean or permanent solution. Education, technology, heritage, arts, culture and tourism and the gig economy are the true routes to economic freedom and effective social development.

@Ellison Blaze

One of the most intelligent comments on the MW forum to date.

Thank you !

As per Ellison Blaze’s comment below, and MichaelfromKlerksdorp who also does not fall for the MSM narrative so easily either, thank you for providing a better rationale here.

So, ‘ISIS’ is now in Moz hey……..?

Well, isn’t that just co-incidence !

If your whole empire is built on the Petro$, wouldn’t your modus operandi look something like this to maintain the status quo:

* Oil is struck somewhere in the world

* Deploy a strawman to create problems [ ‘ISIS’: Israeli Secret Intelligent Service ]

* Get called in to solve this ‘problem’

* Then become the resident overlord and share the gluttony of profits with the local government who are very easily bribed for $$.

Friends, it’s called Problem….Reaction…..Solution.

Good ole USA, been perfecting this roll out since the Middle East years ago.

Rinse. Repeat

When will these African Countries ever learn about the ”progress of opulence”!

The ”colonists’ ‘has got one thing in mind – ”just in time manufacturing and oil production”. I am still amazed by the acceptance by African governments/countries that they don’t realize that these oil companies (like Total etc), will make billions as an inevitable by-product of progress.

Whenever you are swift to a new economic paradigm ( especially in an underdeveloped country like Mozambique), there will be more inequality. There will be more when they move from farm-to-oil production.

Vast fortunes will be made by the big oil companies and all those banks that will finance these oil production processes.
The challenge should be for these Mozambicans should be to get ways to get more of this ”new wealth” upfront and into the hands of the very poor people.

There are obvious parallels here with other terrorist hotspots globally: Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Mali, Libya, Sudan etc where the crux of the matter has been either historical faith based differences as in the Middle East or that the citizenry of the country have been left behind and out of the wealth distribution of resources through corruption, (think oil in Angola) leaving the social base ripe for influence by opportunistic militia.

After the Mozambique civil war finally came to some form of truce, wealth stayed in the hands of the corrupt hierarchy – refer the Tuna Bond scandal.

The biggest disaster is that corrupt politicians are not being jailed, from the West to Asia and Africa. Terrorists are not welcomed or accepted by a well-looked after society.

Fact remains that LNG is still a fossil fuel and while it may be ‘better’ than coal (not saying much) it still comes with a whole set of its own problems, including methane as a by-product, which is one of the worst fossil fuels in terms of global warming.

Fact check. LNG IS methane with accessory amounts of hydrogen and heavier aliphatic hydrocarbons such as ethane and propane. To say that methane is a by-product is nonsense. It is the primary product- about 90% of LNG. The methane is burned to produce CO2 and H2O. Done correctly, the methane is not released into the atmosphere. Why would one throw away money? In fact when the USSR dissolved, the atmospheric methane concentration went down as the USSR gas companies were privatised and plugged the revenue-sapping leaks in their pipelines.

Surely when NG is used (burned, which means oxidized) methane, the main constituent of NG, which is methane, is burned.

If I recall my chemistry redox equations correctly, the reaction for burning (oxidation) of NG is as follows:
methane (CH4) + oxygen (2 O2) -> carbon dioxide (CO2) + water (2 H20)

So methane is consumed, not produced. But carbon dioxide is produced.

End of comments.

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