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UPDATE 2-Rio Tinto in Mozambique withdraws expatriate families over safety
November 1, 2013 / 4:05 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 2-Rio Tinto in Mozambique withdraws expatriate families over safety

* Move is sign of concern over deteriorating security
    * This includes kidnappings, attacks in centre and north
    * President seeks to reassure, does not see return to war

    By Manuel Mucari
    MAPUTO, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Mining company Rio Tinto 
is withdrawing expatriate employees' families from Mozambique
for their safety in a sign that an upsurge in kidnappings and
violence is worrying investors.
    Other major companies developing big coal and gas reserves
in the former Portuguese colony, Brazil's Vale, U.S.
oil company Anadarko and Italian oil and gas group Eni
, said they were closely following political
developments there, after clashes between the government army
and opposition Renamo guerrillas.
    London-listed Rio Tinto, which mines and exports coal from
northwest Tete province, said in a statement it was arranging to
send home the families of foreign employees.
    It announced the move a day after tens of thousands of
Mozambicans marched in the capital Maputo and two other cities
to protest against the threat of armed conflict and a recent
spate of kidnappings by criminals. 
    "The safety of employees and their families is the number
one priority," Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique said, calling this a 
temporary precaution. 
    Its coal operations, inclduing shipments, continue as
planned, it said.
    Seeking to reassure foreign investors and donors, President
Armando Guebuza said this week he did not believe Mozambique ran
the risk of sliding back into the kind of civil war that ravaged
the country from independence in 1975 to 1992.
    That conflict, which killed up to one million Mozambicans,
was fought between Renamo and Guebuza's Frelimo party.
    Armed partisans of Renamo opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama
have carried out sporadic raids and ambushes since April and in
the last two weeks have clashed with government troops in
central Sofala province and in Nampula province in the north.
    Vale, which is also mining coal in Tete, and Eni, which is
exploring large untapped offshore gas deposits in Mozambique's
Rovuma Basin, said they had no immediate plans to follow Rio
Tinto's action. 
    "We do not currently see a risk to our staff but we are of
course monitoring the situation," an Eni spokesman said.
    Vale's Project Director for Africa, Asia and Australia,
Ricardo Saad, said: "We are operating normally.
    A spokesman for Anadarko, which has said it aims to ship the
first cargo of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Mozambique in
2018, said workers' safety was the company's "highest priority".
He declined to discuss company security matters.
    About 150 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas has been found
off Mozambique's shores, enough to supply Germany, Britain,
France and Italy for 15 years, and the government and companies
scouting wells have estimated there may be potential to double
that estimate. 
    But fears of instability have increased after government
troops overran Renamo leader Dhlakama's jungle base camp in 
Sofala on Oct. 21, leading to a series of skirmishes and
ambushes involving suspected Renamo guerrillas.
    Dhlakama's former rebel group has lost successive elections
to the ruling Frelimo party since 1992 and is demanding
electoral reforms.
    He is on the run from government troops in the remote
Gorongosa mountains, several hundred kilometres (miles) north of
the capital Maputo.
    Renamo has said it will boycott Nov. 20 municipal 
elections because it considered the voting system biased. 
    The United Nations, former colonial ruler Portugal, the 
Catholic Church and foreign donor governments including the 
United States have all called on Frelimo and Renamo to negotiate
their differences and avoid a return to war.

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