The Mozambican government has guaranteed that it is working to restore full security to the coastal district of Palma, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, in order to make it possible for work to resume on building natural gas liquefaction plants on the Afungi Peninsula.
A source in the Communication and Image Office in the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy told AIM that this guarantee was given after meetings held in Maputo between Defence Minister Jaime Neto, Mineral Resources Minster Max Tonela, and officials of the French oil and gas company, Total, headed by the company’s President for Exploration and Production, Arnaud Breuillac .
Total heads the consortium building the liquefaction plants, but it pulled all its staff out when islamist terrorists attacked Palma town on 24 March. The Mozambican defence and security forces regained control of the town about a week later. Afungi is about 15 kilometres from the town, and the Mozambican armed forces say the Total site was never under threat.
Nonetheless, on 26 April Total invoked the force majeure clause in its contracts with suppliers. The practical impact of a declaration of force majeure is that Total can violate clauses in its contracts that would otherwise be obligatory.
Both Total and the Mozambican regulator, the National Petroleum Institute (INP), insist that the declaration of force majeure does not pass a death sentence on the liquefied natural gas project – although Total believes that the project has now been thrown off schedule by at least a year.
The INP has pointed out that Total “has not abandoned the project, and remains the concession holder and operator, with all the rights, duties and obligations”, resulting from the contract signed with the government in 2006.
According to AIM’s source, at the end of the meeting between Total and the two ministers both sides expressed their confidence that the LNG project remains viable.
A source cited by the Portuguese news agency Lusa, presumably referring to the same meeting, said “We transmitted to Total our full commitment to re-establishing security” – not only in Palma, but throughout Cabo Delgado. The government was determined to restore “security conditions favourable to the resumption of all the undertakings suspended due to the actions of the terrorists”.
Prior to the terrorist attack on Palma, production of LNG was forecast to start in 2024. The total investment by Total and its partners is estimated at 20 billion US dollars, which makes it the largest private investment currently underway anywhere in Africa.
Meanwhile people fleeing from Palma continue to arrive in the provincial capital, Pemba. They arrive in small boats in a journey that can sometimes take five days. The trip involves island-hopping down the Cabo Delgado coast.
According to Monday’s issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax” between Friday and Sunday about 500 people arrived on the main Pemba beach of Paquitiquete.