BHP Billington Mozal aluminium smelter, Mozambique

A big smelter that consumes much cheap electricity. In 2010 (according to Justiça Ambiental) it bypassed its filters for 4 months, spewing toxic gases straight into the air of Maputo.


Mozambique has considerable energy resources: natural gas in deep waters, an estimated hydropower potential of 12,000 MW and vast coal reserves with the potential of generating up to 5,000 MW [1]. The Cahora Bassa hydropower dam in Tete Central Province, with 2,075  MW electricity generation capacity, is one of the largest hydropower installations in Africa. The proposed controversial large scale Mpanda Nkuwa dam (with a potential power generation of 2,500 MW) would also increase the country's electricity generation.  Most of Cahora Bassa’s electricity is exported to South Africa (and Zimbabwe). Shockingly, Mozambique buys back its own electricity from South Africas Eskom. Once Mozambique buys it back, a large part of this electricity is actually used up by the Mozal aluminum smelter that is owned by Australia-based BHP Billiton (47%), the Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan (25%), the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (24%) and the Government of Mozambique (4%).  One episode of struggle against MOZAL took place in 2010. The environmentalist group, Justiça Ambiental (member of Friends of the Earth International) explained [2] that " Mozal is an aluminum smelter situated in the outskirts of Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, in a densely populated area. It is mostly owned by BHP Billiton, with other smaller shareholders such as Mitsubishi Corporation, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Government of Mozambique.

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Basic Data
NameBHP Billington Mozal aluminium smelter, Mozambique
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Metal refineries
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsMozal is an aluminium smelter joint project in Beluluane Industrial Park, Maputo, Mozambique. The project is a smelting facility that began operations as a producer of aluminium exclusively for export. The smelter is located 20 kilometres west of the city of Maputo. It consumes a large part of the electricity available in Mozambique, and gives a meager economic return to the government of the country.[5] In 2010 because of Mozal's poor operating conditions, weak maintenance, bad monitoring and fundamental design faults, with numerous reports of random discharges and regular events where the filters are bypassed, a crisis was reached. Mozal was forced to deal with the fundamental design faults and filter problems that plagued its operations. Without any public consultations or discussions, Mozal merely informed the public that the system would need rehabilitation. Their method for rehabilitation was that the smelter would bypass its pollution filters for 4 months, emitting tars and toxic gases directly into the air, while it repaired its corroded air filter systems. There was much opposition. An attempt to get redress through the OCDE focal point in London, failed to reach conclusions.

Billiton has provided its description of the project, stating that production is 540,000 tons of aluminium per year and consumes over 900MW from Cahora Bassa in Mozambique (that first goes to South Africa and then comes back to Maputo). [3] About 1 150 employees, 94 percent of whom are Mozambicans, work for Mozal.

Expansion plans (13 Febr. 2017). "BHP Billiton is in talks with Mozambican authorities about the expansion of its Mozal aluminium smelter, with electricity availability seen as the main constraint... BHP Billiton was in talks with the authorities on how and when to proceed with the $500 million project that would boost aluminium production to 750 000 tons a year from 540 000 tons. Mozal is ready to start the third phase. The site is already prepared. The only constraint we have now is power availability... “From the moment the energy is available, the expansion project will start and could come on stream in two to three years.” The existing Mozal smelter requires about 1 000 megawatts of electricity. [4].

South32 is the new name for the Australia-based company that operates the Mozal aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo. South32 was spun out of the mining giant BHP-Billiton in May 2015.
Level of Investment (in USD)1,300,000,000
Type of PopulationUrban
Start Date2010
Company Names or State EnterprisesBHP Billiton (BHP) from Australia
Mitsubishi Corp. from Japan
South 32 from Australia
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Mozambique
International and Financial Institutions International Finance Corporation (of World Bank) (IFC) from United States of America
European Investment Bank (EIB)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersJustiça Ambiental (Mozambique)


Centro Terra Viva


Mozambican Human Rights League

Centre for Public Integrity

Friends of the Earth International

Jubilee Debt Campaign
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 MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution
Potential: Soil contamination
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
OtherRisk of fluorosis
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Other socio-economic impacts
OtherThere are claims that economic benefits go abroad, and taxes on aluminium exports and royalties are too low or non-existent. This apart from the riky situation created in 2010 by the emissions of effluents.
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (undecided)
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The company was not fined for release of pollutants in 2010. Moreover the company gets cheap electricity from Cahora Bassa (Mozambique), and it is claimed that it pays very low taxes / royalties, and makes huge profits from exports.
Sources and Materials

[1] Mozambique: an energy rich country in the dark, by Boaventura Monjane. Presented to the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Center for African Studies conference: Power Africa: Promises, Potentials, Pitfalls, and Possible Alternatives. March 24, 2015.

2005. Excellent report from International Rivers Network on the connection between hydroelectric dams and aluminium smelting across the world. Mozal in Mozambique briefly mentioned.
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[4] Fabio Scala February 13, 2017. Further Africa. Mozambique’s Mozal smelter expansion on course, but electricity is needed.
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[5] The Guardian, Mozambique smelting profits should not fill foreign coffers, say campaigners. UK government and World Bank among investors accused of benefiting disproportionately from lucrative Mozal smelter (8 Jan. 2013)
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[3] Project description, from Billiton BHP
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Mozal by pass is causing a stink. Process will emit potentially dangerous fumes. Business Day. 19 Nov 2010.
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Media Links

[2]. 2010. Justiça Ambiental. MOZAL. We are working to force Mozal to reduce their emissions in order to protect the health of mozambican citizens.
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Other Documents

Source: BHP Billiton
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Last update31/07/2017