French energy giant Total on Monday confirmed it is suspending work on a massive $20 billion gas project in northern Mozambique following the latest jihadist assault on a nearby town last month.
“Considering the evolution of the security situation… Total confirms the withdrawal of all Mozambique LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas] project personnel from the Afungi site,” the company said in a statement.
Total added that it was declaring a “force majeure” situation beyond its control, a legal concept meaning it can suspend fulfilling contractual obligations.
A March 24 jihadist raid on Palma in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province prompted Total to remove remaining staff from the natural gas site.
It had already evacuated some workers and suspended construction in January following a series of jihadist attacks nearby.
Last week, the Confederation of Economic Associations of Mozambique (CTA) said Total had suspended contracts with a series of businesses indirectly involved in the gas project.
CTA president Agostinho Vuma said at the time that Total had assured that the gas project would resume “once it is safe”, although the energy company itself declined to comment.
Gas-rich Cabo Delgado has been battered by a bloody jihadist insurgency since 2017.
The violence has killed at least 2,600 people and displaced nearly 700,000, raising doubts over the viability of the biggest single investment in Africa even before the latest raid.
March’s attack on Palma took place just 10 kilometres (six miles) from the gas project’s nerve centre, despite a government commitment to set up a 25-kilometre security radius around the site.
Dozens were killed in the assault, according to provisional government tallies.
Hundreds of others, including many foreign workers, were evacuated by air and sea while thousands of locals walked to nearby districts.
The LNG project includes development of the Golfinho and Atum offshore natural gas fields and the construction of a two-train liquefaction plant.
Total, the project’s operator, obtained a $14.9 billion debt financing package in July to fund its rollout.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)