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France's Total removes staff at Mozambique LNG as insurgency closes in

Highlights

Militants target village just outside project perimeter

'Demobilization' process at planned project under way

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

London — French energy major Total has begun to remove staff from the site of its planned 12.9 million mt/year Mozambique LNG project after militants attacked a village just outside the perimeter of the site in the north of the country.

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The three-year-old Islamist insurgency has seen militants close in on the site of Total's LNG project on the Afungi peninsula -- also home to ExxonMobil's planned 15.2 million mt/year Rovuma LNG project -- in recent weeks, highlighting the continued security issues facing the southeast African country and its fledgling LNG industry.

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.

A Total spokeswoman said late Jan. 4 it had decided to reduce the number of personnel present at the Afungi site in view of the "evolving" security situation.

"The demobilization process is under way in an organized manner and in conformity with established protocols," the spokeswoman said in emailed comments.

"Total is following the development of the security situation in northern Mozambique with the greatest attention, in conjunction with the Mozambican authorities, and is taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of its staff and its subcontractors."

Escalating insurgency

Militants have stepped up attacks in the Palma district between the Afungi peninsula and the militant-controlled port of Mocimboa da Praia in recent weeks.

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 Mozambique LNG in 2024, with FID on the project taken in 2019.

Total had no comment on whether the removal of staff might affect the project timeline.

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.