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Afungi LNG airport and construction camps, Mozambique


Farming and fishing communities are being displaced for offshore gas development in Cabo Delgado, the northernmost province of Mozambique. The situation is complicated by Islamist insurgency; villages have been raided and people killed. The root motivations of these attacks are complex. Sudden arrival of gas companies, in a region that has endured decades of poverty, led to young men suffering high levels of unemployment and lack of livelihoods becoming targets for enrolment by Islamist armed rebels.[1] The first flight to land at Afungi Airstrip, built to serve the Mozambique LNG project in Cabo Delgado, was reported on 20th February 2020.[2] In a 24th February 2020 Al Jazeera article Ilham Rawoot of environmental non-governmental organization Justica Ambiental reported from discussions with villagers from communities being forcibly displaced for gas development in Cabo Delgado. Their concerns and objections to the resettlement process had ‘fallen on deaf ears’. Farming and fishing livelihoods were being lost. Many affected people said compensation was inadequate and in some cases allocation of new plots of arable land triggered conflict because the land encroached on other communities’ farmland. Gas industry jobs they had been promised had not materialized.[3] Mozambique LNG project acquired 6,625 hectares of land on the Afungi Peninsula, in the form of a DUAT (Direito de Uso e Aproveitamento da Terra) - a right to use and benefit from the land. The project includes an airstrip and adjoining project camps. Mozambique LNG: Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) Summary, published in April 2019, includes a graphic indicating the locations of 556 households (2,446 people) who will be displaced by the project. Many of these people will lose access to agricultural land, fishing grounds and intertidal gathering areas. Women are anticipated to be more severely affected due to patriarchal social structures affording them lower status regarding property ownership, land rights and participation in fishing. A small number of the households to be displaced are shown to be located within the site of Afungi airstrip and project camps on the southwest border of the site. The resettlement village site, in the area of the Quitunda settlement, is on the outside of the DUAT boundary, just 300 kilometres from the northern portion of the Afungi airstrip runway.[4] A map in the DUAT Encroachment Management Plan shows sites allocated for the airstrip, camps adjoining the runway and other project camps.[5] Mozambican state oil and gas company Empresa Nacional deHidrocarbonetos (ENH) acquired the DUAT from the Ministry of Agriculture in 2012. Subsequently the DUAT was transferred to Rovuma Basin LNG Land, LDA (RBLL), a joint venture between AMA1, Eni and ENH. Project components specified in Mozambique LNG: Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Summary include airstrips and worker housing. Impacts on community health anticipated in the ESIA from Project workforce and in-migration include communicable diseases, increased demand on health infrastructure, food and nutrition-related issues, community accidents and sexually transmitted diseases. Environmental impacts of the projected influx of people to the project area detailed in the ESIA include reduction of bird habitat quality and indirect impacts on mammals.[6]

Afungi Airstrip conflict

On 21st February 2019 an employee of Gabriel Couto, a company contracted to build the airport in the LNG project site, was murdered in a fatal attack on a convoy of sub-contractors working for Anadarko, operator of the Cabo Delgado LNG project. The worker was be headed, and the attack left another six people injured. Sources in Mozambique’s security and logistics sectors told Petroleum Economist that the convoy had been transporting Anadarko contractors to the project site when it came upon a village in flames, under attack by insurgents. The convoy turned around but was shot at by another group of insurgents in a village through which it had passed earlier. The man who was murdered was travelling in a separate car and appeared to have been killed when he got out of the car upon encountering the attack. The Afungi airport project is designed to help LNG projects avoid road travel as much as possible. At this juncture the airport facility was at least two years away from completion. It was the first incidence of international oil companies being directly caught up in the armed insurgency in the Cabo Delgado province. Whether the attack specifically targeted Mozambique’s emerging gas industry was unknown, but it highlighted future security problems for the region. The attack led to talk of a shift in insurgents’ strategy towards targeting gas projects. In response the government promised to step up security in the province. Interior minister Basilio Monteiro promised to send various units of Mozambique’s defence and security forces to bolster security around the gas projects. Anadarko, whilst stating that the evidence indicated that their contract personnel, LNG project and airstrip were not targeted in the attack, expressed gratitude for the government action to increase security. The company stated that thanks to the government response it was expected that the project would continue according to its current schedule. But authorities’ response to the attack stoked resentment among the local population who were already concerned that their safety was a lower priority for the government than the gas projects. Hundreds of villagers had been killed since the insurgency in the Cabo Delgado province began.[7]

Afungi COVID-19 outbreak

On 30th September 2019 French oil and gas company Total became the main operator of Mozambique LNG upon acquiring Anadarko’s 26.5% stake.[8] On 2nd April 2020 Total confirmed a COVID-19 case at Afungi, the tenth case to be confirmed in Mozambique. An employee working at the LNG project site at Afungi had tested positive for Covid-19, having worked on the site since 9th March and beginning to feel unwell on 27th March. The individual was reported to be in self- isolation since 29th March after being tested in a facility in Maputo.[9] On 9th April it was reported that five cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed among 35 Total workers who had been in contact with the first worker at the site to test positive. Total announced a decision to place ‘the entire project in quarantine’, reducing site operations to a minimum with only ‘critical activities, such as aerodrome safety operations’ continuing. Total stated that all of the almost 500 workers, of various nationalities, at the Afungi site would be required to stay in their rooms and be tested for COVID-19 and that, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health all local contacts of the confirmed cases outside the project site would be traced.[10] On 14th April it was reported that Total’s Afungi project was Mozambique’s COVID-19 epicentre, with 17 of Mozambique’s 28 confirmed cases linked to the site. The first worker at the site to test positive had transmitted the disease to at least 10 other people and seven new cases, all connected to the LNG project, had been confirmed. Total said in a statement that “business continuity plans in place to ensure the impact to the project of an event like this is mitigated as much as possible…We are focused on critical activity including security, logistics and forward planning.”[11] In a Foreign Policy News article Kate DeAngelis, international policy analyst at Friends of the Earth, raised concerns over the measures being taken by Total to contain the virus. Reportedly, Total had ‘at first refused to halt or even slow its work in northern Mozambique’, a failure to take early action that would have stemmed an increase in COVID cases. The virus would spread easily in camps housing thousands of fossil fuel workers in cramped quarters. Having placed the site ‘under lockdown’, it was unclear which activities had been halted on the Total site and what safety measures the firm had put in place to protect workers and nearby communities. De Angelis writes ‘Total’s delay in stopping activities and unclear plans for controlling the virus’s spread puts not only its workers, but also surrounding villages at unnecessary risk’.  She points out that the host community has only scarce resources to manage COVID-19 and local health systems would likely be ‘strained beyond the breaking point’ if the virus spreads more widely in the area, arguing that fossil fuel companies should halt all work while the region works to contain coronavirus.[12]

On 26th April 2020 National Director of Public Health, Dr. Rosa Marlene, stated that contact tracing had discovered five more COVID-19 cases in Mozambique, all workers at Total’s Afungi camp, taking the country’s total number of cases to 70.[13] The following day five more COVID-19 cases among Total workers at Afungi were reported, with this being the only detected active transmission chain in the country. A further COVID-19 case, Mozambique’s 76th, was a child, the daughter of a resident of Pemba who contracted the virus from professional contact with a patient in Afungi. Director general of INS (National Institute of Health), Dr. Ilesh Vinodrai Jani, announced that almost 1,000 workers and subcontractors on the Afungi Peninsula would be tested, informing a press conference: “There is active transmission in the Afungi camps, and we need a process of mass testing, isolation and decontamination. It is a process that will take at least two or three weeks… and we will definitely see an increase in the number of positive cases.” Testing all Afungi workers for Covid-19 would not be possible as more than 2,000 people had left the Total camp since identification of the ‘index case’. This movement of workers meant that attempts to contain the outbreak within Cabo Delgado province would not be unfeasible.[14] Concerns over continuing Afungi flights  

On 8th May A Verdade reported concerns over possible risk of spreading infection from continuing flights, by Mozambican flag carrier LAM, between the Afungi LNG facility, epicentre of Mozambique COVID-19 outbreak, and Pemba, the capital city of Cabo Delgado province. Air passengers were Total workers leaving the Afungi site and health workers conducting tests at the camps. A Verdade reported that air crew operating these flights, five people including two pilots, were not subject to the screening tests and quarantine that applied to all citizens and that after each flight these crew stayed at a hotel in Pemba where they interacted freely with other people. National Director of Public Health, Dr. Rosa Marlene, stated that LAM crew “observe quarantine, depending on the time they have on land. We can guarantee that they are isolated and not in contact with other people, so as not to transmit the infection, but we will see what is happening and reinforce the measures if we are relaxing”. She informed a press conference “We will see what happened with the non-testing of the crews of Airlines of Mozambique, but testing is planned to ensure crew is not a source of infection”. A Verdade raised concerns that COVID-19 measures pertaining to aviation might be insufficiently stringent to contain the Afungi outbreak. A circular prepared by the Ministry of Transport and Communications made recommendations related to air transport including disinfection of shoes and hands, and temperature measurement, when boarding aircraft. In accordance with recommendations of health authorities cabin crew must wear masks during flights. But the circular did not specify procedures for transport of passengers considered to be at risk of COVID-19 infection, which was the case regarding Total workers at Afungi camps.[15] 

Continued increase in Afungi COVD-19 cases

The number of COVID-19 cases at Total’s Afungi oil facilities climbed to 59 by 11th May 2020. Samples had been collected from all of the 886 Total workers at three operational camps. Dr. Ilesh Vinodrai Jani explained that positive and negative cases would be identified and non-essential workers relocated to different areas according to risk. 415 workers would remain on site to ensure continuation of minimum services and be tested for COVID-19 every 10 days. Dr. Jani announced that transmission chains had been interrupted so, as the camp was closed, there was no reason for testing in the wider Afungi Peninsula.[16] On 15th May it was reported that the 75th worker at Total’s construction camps on the Afungi Peninsula had tested positive for COVID-19. The patient was a 30-year-old woman and health officials said her low viral load indicated her infection had occurred several weeks previously and was in its final phase. The cumulative total of known COVID-19 cases in the country had reached 115 and a new outbreak of four cases had emerged in the District of Palma. Dr Sergio Chicumbe, National Director for the Health Survey and Monitoring Area, said it was “not possible to establish a direct relationship with the Afungi camp” but admitted that the transmission mechanism was not known.[17] Three new cases in the Afungi Peninsula were reported on 17th May, all Total employees diagnosed in re-testing of the 415 individuals remaining at the camps maintaining minimum services in the Mozambique LNG project. The new cases brought the number of COVID-19 positive Total workers to 78.[18]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Afungi LNG airport and construction camps, Mozambique
State or province:Cabo Delgado province
Location of conflict:Afungi
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Natural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Mozambique LNG: Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Summary specifies the following Onshore Project Components: LNG facility, worker housing, construction lay-down area, airstrips, water and waste facilities and buffer zones.[6] On 24th October 2018 it was reported that Portuguese construction company Gabriel Couto had been hired by Anadarko, operator of Mozambique LNG at this juncture, to build an aerodrome in Afungi to support the project. Tiago Couto, director of the company, told Portuguese newspaper O Minho that the contract specified design and construction of a 2,300 meter runway plus a terminal and other buildings to support the runway including a passenger terminal, parking area for four aircraft and a helicopter. Couto did not disclose the value of the contract signed with Anadarko and stated that the aerodrome will support development of offshore gas exploration projects of the Area 1 and Area 4 blocks, with the latter to be operated by Italian energy company Eni.[19]

Portuguese engineering consulting company NRV/Norvia is lead designer for construction of Afungi Airstrip and published a photo showing construction works underway on 28th May 2019, referring to the project as ‘Afungi Permanent Airstrip’.[20] On 30th September 2019 French oil and gas company Total became the main operator of Mozambique LNG upon acquiring Anadarko’s 26.5% stake.[6] In December 2019 Portuguese development finance institution Society for Development Finance (Sofid) announced it would provide finance of approximately €1.5 million for the €10 million investments that Portuguese company Gabriel Couto planned to undertake in Mozambique. The starting point for Gabriel Couto’s operations in the country was construction of the airstrip in Afungi to serve gas megaprojects in the north and the firm was reported to have other projects in the pipeline.[21] The first flight to land at Afungi Airstrip was reported on 20th February 2020. Works on the project continued.[2] The area covered by Afungi airstrip and camp development, as shown on a video dated 15th December 2019, is approximately 226 hectares with an extended runway 3 kilometers in length.[22]

Project area:226 hectares
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:3,000
Start of the conflict:21/02/2019
Company names or state enterprises:Total SA from France - Operator of Mozambique LNG project
Gabriel Couto from Portugal - Contracted by Anadarko to build aerodrome in Afungi to support gas exploration projects
NRV/Norvia from Portugal - Lead designer for construction of Afungi Permanent Airstrip project
Anadarko Petroleum Corporation from United States of America
LAM Mozambique Airlines (LAM) from Mozambique - LAM Q400 aircraft at the disposal of Total, the oil company leading the LNG, maintained flights between Afungi and Pemba after COVID-19 outbreak
Empresa Nacional deHidrocarbonetos ENH (ENH) from Mozambique - Stakeholder in Mozambique LNG project, acquired rights to use land on Afungi peninsula for site of onshore facilities from Ministry of Agriculture
Relevant government actors:Government of Mozambique
Ministry of Health
National Institute of Health (INS)
Palma District Administration
Ministry of Transport and Communications
Ministry of Agriculture
International and Finance InstitutionsExport-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im US) from United States of America - On 26th September 2019 Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) approved a USD5 billion loan to support US exports for development and construction of Mozambique LNG project, located on the Afungi peninsula
African Development Bank (AfDB) from Ivory Coast - Approved USD400 million loan to support Mozambique LNG project in November 2019
Sociedade para o Financiamento do Desenvolvimento (SOFID) from Portugal - Contributed €1.5 million to investments that Gabriel Couto plans to carry out in Mozambique, starting with construction of airstrip in Afungi
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:JA! Justiça Ambiental -
Friends of the Earth -
ECA Watch -

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Noise pollution
Potential: Air pollution, Oil spills, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Soil erosion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Health ImpactsVisible: Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other Health impacts, Accidents
Potential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents
Other Health impactsIllnesses caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence, Displacement, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:A construction worker at Afungi Airstrip was killed by armed insurgents and six peopel were injured. Shortly after commencement of operations the airstrip and camp became the epicentre of the worst COVID-19 outbreak in Mozambique. Operations were taken to contain the outbreak but works on the site were not halted. At the time of the outbreak there were about 3,000 workers on the site. Afungi Airstrip and construction camps will also enable development of the Mozambique LNG project on a 6,625 hectares area of the Peninsula, which threatens displacement of a large number of households.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Mozambique LNG: Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Summary, African Development Bank Group, April 2019

[6] Mozambique LNG: Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Summary, African Development Bank Group, April 2019

Mozambique LNG: Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) Summary, African Development Bank Group, April 2019


[4] Mozambique LNG: Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) Summary, African Development Bank Group, April 2019


[22] Overhead view of Afungi airstrip and camp, Yatich K, 15 December 2019

[20] Overhead view of Afungi airstrip and camp, Yatich K, 15 December 2019

[17] Watch: New Covid-19 focus in Palma, 2 more children infected; MISAU admits that community transmission may be “already occurring” – Mozambique | A Verdade, Club of Mozambique, 15 May 2020

[2] First flight lands at Afungi airport, as works continue, Zitamar News, 20 February 2020

[7] Mozambique attack highlights LNG project dangers, Petroleum Economist, 5 April 2019

[8] Oil major Total closes purchase of Anadarko's Mozambique LNG asset, Reuters, 30 September 2019

[9] Total confirms Covid-19 case on Mozambique LNG site, 2 April 2020

[10] Covid 19: Total quarantines Mozambique LNG project site in Afungi (Palma) – Carta, Club of Mozambique, 9 April 2020

[12] Fossil fuel giants put workers and communities in Mozambique at risk of COVID-19, Foreign Policy News, 20 April 2020

[19] Afungi's Airstrip, NRV/Norvia, 28 May 2019

[18] Portuguese group builds aerodrome in Mozambique for Anadarko Petroleum, Macauhub, 24 October 2018

[1] Camila Rolando Mazzu, EnvJustice, Mozambique Gas Development Project, villagers dispossessed for off shore drilling, Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, 17 February 2019

[15] Afungi-Pemba charter crew, mandatory quarantine and state of emergency rules – A Verdade, Club of Mozambique, 8 May 2020

[13] Mozambique: Five More Cases of Coronavirus Confirmed, Allafrica, 26 April 2020

[11] Total’s LNG Project Is Mozambique’s Coronavirus Epicenter, Bloomberg, 14 April 2020

[20] Afungi's Airstrip, NRV/Norvia, 28 May 2019

[3] Ilham Rawoot, Gas-rich Mozambique may be headed for a disaster, Al Jazeera, 24 February 2020
[3] Ilham Rawoot, Gas-rich Mozambique may be headed for a disaster, Al Jazeera, 24 February 2020

[14] Mozambique: Heath to decontaminate Total facilities in Afungi, where there are 47 patients and almost 1,000 suspected cases – A Verdade, Club of Mozambique, 27 April 2020

Meta information

Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded, [email protected]
Last update13/08/2020



Mozambique LNG map

Map of Mozambique LNG including airstrip Source: Club Of Mozambique, 29 September 2019

Afungi Permanent construction

Afungi Permanent Airstrip construction works underway. Source: NRV/Norvia, 28th May 2019

Displacement and resettlement map

Graphic showing displacement of 556 households and economic displacement of 952 households for Mozambique LNG and resettlement plans, including replacement village near Afungi airstrip and camp Source: Mozambique LNG: Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) Summary, African Development Bank Group, April 2019

COVID-19 transmission map, 11th May 2020

Map showing COVID-19 potential suspected cases and transmission, with Afungi as epicentre of epidemic. Source: Jornal a Verdade, 11 May 2020

LNG Facilities Layout

Map of DUAT (Direito de Uso e Aproveitamento da Terra) - Land Use and Benefit Rights, Facilities and Afungi Peninsula showing site of Afungi airstrip and camps. Source: DUAT ENCROACHMENT MANAGEMENT PLAN: ROVUMA LNG PROJECT, 09/05/2019

Afungi airstrip construction

Image from video, Mozambique LNG will soon have its own airstrip. Source: Mozambique LNG, 1 July 2019

Mozambique LNG site map

Map of Mozambique LNG site showing planned location of Afungi airstrip, pioneer camp, camp expansion, resettlement village and LNG park Source: Club of Mozambique, 21 November 2018

Afungi airstrip, camps and resettlement village

Image from video showing overhead view of Afungi airstrip and camps with resettlement village in the foreground. The airportstrip and resettlement village are linked by a track. Source: Yatich K, 15 December 2019