Maputo – TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanne met on Monday with Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi to discuss reopening a natural gas project shut down nearly a year ago after jihadist attacks.
The northern province of Cabo Delgado has some of the world’s largest deposits of natural gas, but is one of the poorest regions in the country.
A brazen raid on the coastal town of Palma last March prompted TotalEnergies to suspend work on the $20-billion project.
Violence in the region has led to the death of at least 3,500 people since 2017, while 820 000 have fled their homes.
“Total didn’t leave because it wanted to. Total left because they were attacked,” Nyusi said. “As soon as life returns to normal, the population will be able to return, as will the businesses, because Total was not the only one that suffered from the attacks.”
Pouyanne’s “visit is important to assess what is happening, and one of the things we are going to do together is to bring peace to the district,” Nyusi added.
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TotalEnergies had originally planned for its LNG facility to start producing in 2024, but the timeline has been pushed back to 2026.
Part of the frustration for people in Cabo Delgado is that the project has yet to start generating jobs or other benefits for local residents.
Pouyanne said that to help address that concern, his company had agreed to launch a training scheme for 2,500 young Mozambicans to work in “pragmatic programmes on the ground”.
He said he was optimistic on the future of the project.
“A lot of progress has been done, let me be clear,” Pouyanne said, although he acknowledged there was more work to be done to achieve a sustainable security situation.
“Security is not only a matter of armed forces,” he said. “It’s also question to work together with the population.”
Rwanda and the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) sent in some 3,000 troops about six months ago to help Mozambique quell the unrest.
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