French oil firm Total has signed an agreement with the Mozambican government to protect a multi-billion-dollar natural gas project located in the conflict-hit north of the country, the company announced on Monday.Total Mozambique said in a statement that the two sides have agreed to establish a joint task force that would secure its liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in the mineral-rich Cabo Delgado province where extremists have wreaked havoc over the past few years.
“In view of the security situation in the province of Cabo Delgado, our priority is to ensure the security of our workforce, many of whom residing in neighbouring communities, and of the project operations,” said Ronan Bescond, Total’s country chairperson for Mozambique.
Cabo Delgado has experienced a wave of armed attacks since October 2017 and these have escalated significantly since January 2020, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without adequate access to food, water, sanitation or any basic services.
More than 200,000 people have been internally displaced in the oil-rich province where armed groups have been attacking government installations and civilians.
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Ernesto Tonela said the pact “endeavours to create a safe operating environment for partners like Total which enables their ongoing investment in Mozambican industry, for small and medium enterprise and for our communities.”
According to Total, the MOU “provides that a Joint Task Force shall ensure the security of Mozambique LNG project activities in Afungi site and across the broader area of operations of the project”.
It said the security agreement demonstrated the project’s commitment to meeting its milestones in a secure manner, “while creating local opportunities and bringing meaningful social and economic benefits for the province of Cabo Delgado and the country.”
Total announced in July that it had signed a US$14.9-billion debt financing agreement for the Mozambican LNG project, revealing that the financing had been secured from eight export credit agencies, 19 commercial banks and development finance institutions.
The project is ranked Africa’s single largest foreign direct investment to date and comprises a global team of energy developers and operators, led by Total alongside Mitsui, Oil India, ONGC Videsh Limited, Bharat Petroleum, PTT Exploration, as well as Mozambique’s national oil and gas company, ENH.
On completion, the project is expected to have a total capacity of around 13 million tonnes of LNG per year.