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Mozambique LNG security in spotlight again as insurgency creeps closer


Militants target village 20 km from Afugni: reports

No sign of let-up to three-year-old Islamist insurgency

Failure to repel attack raises questions around priorities: analyst

  • Author
  • Stuart Elliott
  • Editor
  • Alisdair Bowles
  • Commodity
  • Natural Gas

London — Militants have attacked a village in northern Mozambique just 20 km from the site of two major LNG project developments, according to local media reports, highlighting the continued security issues facing the southeast African country and its fledgling LNG industry.

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More than 30 million mt/year of LNG production capacity is under development in Mozambique as the country looks to join the ranks of the world's biggest LNG exporters.

It emerged Dec. 8 that militants had attacked the village of Mute in the Palma district, which lies in a buffer zone between the Afungi peninsula -- where France's Total and US major ExxonMobil are developing LNG export facilities -- and the militant-controlled port of Mocimboa da Praia.

The port has been occupied since mid-August as part of the growing Islamist insurgency that began in October 2017.

Total plans to produce first LNG from its 12.9 million mt/year Mozambique LNG project in 2024, with FID on the project taken in 2019.

Total had no immediate comment Dec. 9 in response to a request for reaction to the latest attack.

ExxonMobil, meanwhile, has deferred a final investment decision on its 15.2 million mt/year Rovuma LNG facility until at least 2021.

Italy's Eni, though, remains on track to start up its 3.4 million mt/year capacity Coral South floating LNG production facility offshore Mozambique in 2022.

Total security pact

The insurgency -- which also spread to offshore tourist islands in the autumn -- prompted Total in late August to agree a pact with the Mozambique government to provide security for its LNG activities in the country.

The deal provides for the establishment of a joint task force in a bid to bolster security measures and create a safe operating environment.

A number of groups are now part of the insurgency including the Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamo (ASWJ) group and the Islamic State's Central Africa Province (ISCAP), which has declared Mocimboa da Praia as the capital of its province.

The Mozambique government has called on the EU and US for assistance in combatting the insurgency.

Ed Hobey-Hamsher, Senior Africa Analyst at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said the LNG developers would not need to amend their security protocols in light of the latest attack.

"They are already bypassing the road between Mocimboa da Praia and Palma, moving freight and personnel by air or sea," Hobey-Hamsher said.

"The attack did not demonstrate an escalation in the capabilities of ASWJ that would signal the group now poses a direct threat to the already heavily protected LNG project site," he said.

However, there are question marks around the government's priorities in light of the continued insurgency.

"The failure of the significant deployment of Defence and Security Forces (FDS) to successfully repel the attack will increase popular skepticism that their primary interest is the protection of the LNG companies at the expense of local communities," Hobey-Hamsher said.

"Public distrust of the FDS will prolong the insurgency as successful counterinsurgency depends on popular confidence for intelligence and information operations," he said.