Large-scale coal mining and resettlements in Tete Province, Mozambique

While soon 6 million ha - more than half of the area of Tete province - will be covered by coal mining concessions, resettled families still haven't received proper compensation. There is deadly violence against people who reclaim their land.

On July 13, 2017, "a citizen was reportedly shot dead by police in the village of Moatize, Tete province, when a group protested against the closing of Vale Mozambique mining company concession access gates. After lengthy talks between the local government and Vale Mozambique, it was conceded that the gates should remain open in order to allow the former owners to graze livestock and gather firewood, a witness told @Verdade.  Allegedly, the deceased, Hussen Antonio, died fleeing from the police after being shot in the arm. Despite being already wounded, one of the officers called to the scene of the previously peaceful demonstration by Vale then shot the man in the back. Consequently, he fell dead. A Verdade tried to contact the police in Tete, but without success, since investigations into under what circumstances the deadly shooting happened were still ongoing. This is not the first time that Vale Mozambique has requested police intervention in conflicts with communities in the areas in which it operates, with sometimes dire consequences.(1) (2)  Hundreds of small farmers are still at odds with Vale Mozambique and also other coal extraction companies, and the Moatize local government, as a result of land grabbing and lack of compensation for having ceded their lands. Mozambique's Tete province comprises the inland Moatize coal mines and is a province very rich in coal. It is expected to become a very large energy power house, from coal and hydroelectricity.  It is estimated that Tete holds around 23 billion tons of mostly untapped coal reserves. Although the coal boom is still in its early stages, Mozambique already surpassed Zimbabwe and became the second-largest coal producer in Africa, behind South Africa in 2012. The Mozambican coal production has increased from 42,000 short tons in 2010 to nearly 5.4 million short tons in 2012. Several new infrastructure projects related to coal production are planned as well, which include a new coal terminal at the Beira port, coal export terminals in Nacala and a new port at Macuse. Since 2009, a surge of foreign investment in Mozambique's coal sector has been taking place. Companies Vale, Rio Tinto, Riversdale and Jindal Steel from Brazil, UK, Australia and India have invested billions of dollars in the past decade and are expected to invest an additional 50 billion dollars in the coming 10 years. The local population of Tete province has suffered from the coal boom, since large scale resettlements have been taking place since 2009. As a consequence, the communities have faced disruptions in accessing food, water and work, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports. Living conditions have decreased drastically, as many farming households who had previously been living along a river and were therefore self-sufficient, have now been resettled to sites 40 km away from the markets in Moatize, with agricultural land of uneven quality and unreliable access to water. Food insecurity and dependence on food assistance provided by the mining companies has become a serious issue for the families. On 10 January 2012, an estimated 500 residents from the resettlement village Cateme from the company Vale took their frustration with the lack of response from the company to the streets, protested and blocked the railroad linking the coal mine to the port. The demonstrations were shut down violently by local police. About 700 families had been resettled to the Cateme area between November 2009 and December 2010 and had recently been suffering from a lack of access to water, electricity and agricultural land occurring due to the resettlement. In 2012, through interviews with 79 resettled and soon-to-be-resettled community members and 50 government officials, company representatives, civil society actors etc., HRW investigated the impact of the resettlement process on the communities. Their report indicated that the resettlements have had “negative impacts on community members' standard of living, including rights to food, water, and work”. It was found that residents were especially struggling to regain their former self-sufficiency. The resettlements that took place due to coal mining in Tete province cited in the report include 10 original villages (Chipanga, Bagamoyo, Mithete, Malabwe, Capanga, Benga, Nhambalualu, Cassoca, Xissica, Nhomadzinedzani) that had been and were to be resettled by companies Vale, Rio Tinto and Jindal Steel at the Moatize, Benga and Chirodzi mines. In August 2012, the government of Mozambique took steps to improve communities' protection during the resettlements by issuing a resettlement decree. Nevertheless, the government did not consult the affected communities during the development of the decree, therefore critical gaps still remain. As Kirschner and Powell state (2015, in Geoforum, in a paper on the Tete coals fields), "The Frelimo government—once guided by a Marxist–Leninist ideology—has come to view coal mining and export as a pathway to modernisation and development and has hitched its fortunes to the burgeoning demand for resources, including from Western countries and from the ‘rising powers’". 
Basic Data
NameLarge-scale coal mining and resettlements in Tete Province, Mozambique
ProvinceTete Province
SiteMoatize, Tete Province
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Coal extraction and processing
Water access rights and entitlements
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
Tete province is a "commodity extraction frontier" rich in coal. It holds an estimated 23 billion tons of mostly untapped coal reserves, with the natural resource boom still in its early stages. Mining concessions and exploration licenses approved by the government cover around 3.4 million hectares (34% of Tete province's area). When licenses pending approval are included, around 60% of the province's area are covered, representing a project area of around six million hectares of land.
See more...
Project Area (in hectares)6,000,000 hectares (including licenses pending approval)
Level of Investment (in USD)12,000,000,000 (for several coal projects)
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected PopulationMore than 7,000 (at least 1,429 households)
Start Date01/01/2009
Company Names or State EnterprisesVale S.A. (Vale) from Brazil
Rio Tinto (Rio Tinto ) from Australia
Jindal Steel and Power Limited from India
Riversdale Resources from Australia - mining
Coal Ventures from India
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Mozambique
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersHuman Rights Watch (HRW):
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Displacement
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Criminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.By 2013, many of the resettled villagers and communities still felt misled and cheated by the outcomes of the resettlements which according to them, diverged significantly from what they had been promised. There also seems to still exist a lack of coherent, efficient complaint mechanisms, despite of the 2012 resettlement decree passed by the Mozambican government. There is police repression against people who want to use their own land which they have lost.
Sources and Materials

Human Rights Watch (2012), Human Rights Watch Recommendations for Mozambique's Resettlement Decree, 17 September 2012,
[click to view]

Human Rights Watch (2013), “What is a House without Food?”, Mozambique's Coal Mining Boom and Resettlements, HRW Report, May 2013,
[click to view]

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) (2014), Mozambique Country Analysis Note, Last Updated: July 2014,
[click to view]

Mining and extractive urbanism: Postdevelopment in a Mozambican boomtown, Joshua Kirshner, , Marcus Power, Geoforum, 2015, vol. 61. p. 67-78
[click to view]


Mozambique families protest against Brazil's Vale, by William Mapote, Reuters Africa, 10 January 2012,
[click to view]

Mozambique protesters at Brazil-owned Vale coal mine, BBC News Africa, 17 April 2013,
[click to view]

Clashes at coal mine owned by Vale in Mozambique, by Cecilia Jamasmie,, 17 April 2013,
[click to view]

India's Jindal wins 25-yr coal licence in Mozambique, by Charles Mangwiro, Reuters, 4 February 2011,
[click to view]

Mozambique: Mining Resettlements Disrupt Food, Water, Human Rights Watch, 23 May 2013,
[click to view]

(2)Conflitos entre mineradora e comunidades em Tete causam morte de jovem. Disputa de espaço entre a mineradora Vale Moçambique e a comunidade de Nhanchere, na vila de Moatize, resultou na morte de Hussen António Laitone, um jovem de 25 anos de idade.
[click to view]

(1) From A Verdade, killing of Hessene Antonio by police for tresppasing on his own land now claimed by the Vale Company
[click to view]

Media Links

Human Rights Watch (2013), Mozambique: Protect the Rights of Farmers Resettled for Coal Mines, 22 May 2013,
[click to view]

Report (taken from DW) on the death of Hussen António Laitone. Conflitos entre mineradora e comunidades em Tete causam morte de jovem
Disputa de espaço entre a mineradora Vale Moçambique e a comunidade de Nhanchere, na vila de Moatize, resultou na morte de Hussen António Laitone, um jovem de 25 anos de idade.
[click to view]

Other Documents

Map of mining licences in Tete province Source:
[click to view]

Other CommentsAccording to Kirscher and Power (2015, in Geoforum): "Tete hosts another planned energy mega-project with the pro-posed Mphanda Nkuwa dam, sited 60 km downstream from Cahora Bassa at a cost of US$2.2 billion. When completed, the project will produce 1300 MW of power and is intended to attract energy-

intensive industries to Mozambique and to improve its balance of

payments through regional electricity sales. Vigorously opposed by

a range of civil society organisations.". Notice that much of electricity from Cahora Bassa goes to South Africa, is reimported by Mozambique, sold to Mozal for aluminium smelting that goes for export.
Meta Information
Last update15/08/2017