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Coal mining in Tete Province by Vale and other companies, Mozambique


Brazilian major mining group Vale extracts coal from the Moatize mine in the Tete province of Mozambique.

In 2012, the board of Vale was planning a $6 billion expansion of the mine with plans to lift output from 11 million tons to 22 million tons per year. The company is planning to build a 600 MW thermal power plant at Moatize. Many families have been displaced. Hundreds of families, displaced by Vale Moatize coal mine in Mozambique, in 2012 blocked trains used by the Brazilian company, claiming it has failed to keep promises made to them over two years ago.

About 700 families, resettled approximately 60 km away from the Moatize coal mining site, demonstrated against the lack of access to water, electricity and agricultural land at their resettlement area, Cateme.

Tete Province, where these mines are located, is very rich in coal. It is expected to become the region's energy powerhouse built on coal and hydroelectricity. An estimated 23 billion tons of mostly untapped coal lies beneath Tete. However, local farmer communities have been on the losing side of the coal boom so far, especially since large scale resettlements forced them out from 2009 onwards. According to an article by EEB, "the list of companies includes Brazilian Vale S.A., British Rio Tinto, Australian Riversdale Resources Limited as well as Indian giant Jindal Steel and Power Limited that swarmed to the place with investments worth billions of dollars. Their extensive concession rights cover half the province. The more than 6 million ha they claim includes nearly all the grasslands that herdsmen from the region need access to." [3]

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’". 

In October 2018, neighbors of Moatize who lives along the fence of the company managed to shut down part of the Vale mine, known as "Moatize-2" [5]. They “decided to invade the mining area, to have all [machinery] operators stopped by force, without however vandalising the machines,” reports the Association of Legal Support and Counselling to Communities [AAAJC – Associação de Apoio e Assistência Jurídica às Comunidades]. According to the same source, the population complains of excessive pollution, acceleration of the decay of houses due to explosion of dynamites, unbearable noise and dust pollution it was causing. The community complains for lung diseases other health impacts [4].

In November 2018, the Mozambican Bar Association (OAM) has again demanded that coal mining companies in the western province of Tete (in specific Vale Mozambique and the Indian firm Jindal) be held responsible for their failure to resettle people affected by their activities [4]. The organization recognizes that Vale did resettle some of the communities affected by its Moatize mine, but that resettlement has always been vigorously contested as shoddy and unjust. The OAM points out that negotiations are continuing with the affected communities to ensure the payment of fair compensation. OAM also warns that to date the government has declined to use its authority. In particular, the organization accuses the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development of "choosing to nourish the impunity of Vale and Jindal", which perpetuates "the precarious living conditions of the communities affected".

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Coal mining in Tete Province by Vale and other companies, Mozambique
State or province:Tete Province
Location of conflict:Moatize, 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:Water access rights and entitlements
Coal extraction and processing
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

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.

There are several plans for coal fired power plants, in thousands of megawatts. "... the province of Tete, once a remote outpost but now a hub of power generation for the southern African region and an emerging centre of global investment in coal extraction. Some of the world’s largest mining firms from both established and emerging economies have descended on Tete, investing billions of dollars in developing concessions to extract some of the world’s largest untapped coal reserves" (Kirschner and Power, 2015, Geoforum).

In July 2014, Rio Tinto sold its coal assets in Mozambique to the Indian state-run International Coal Ventures (ICVL).

Project area:6,000,000 hectares (including licenses pending approval)
Level of Investment for the conflictive project12,000,000,000 (for several coal projects)
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:More than 7,000 (at least 1,429 households)
Start of the conflict:01/01/2009
Company names or state enterprises:Vale (Vale) from Brazil
Rio Tinto (Rio Tinto ) from United Kingdom
Jindal Steel and Power Limited from India
Riversdale Resources from Australia - mining
Coal Ventures from India
Relevant government actors:Government of Mozambique
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Human Rights Watch (HRW):

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
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, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Other Health impactsLung diseases due to dust and explosions
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Specific impacts on women, Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsCracks in the houses due to explosions


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:"The protestors want the mine to be closed definitively. Alternatively, the households affected could be resettled far away from the coal dust which threatens them with lung diseases. In addition to the dust, they say that the explosions in the mine cause vibrations which are damaging their homes, causing cracks to appear in the walls." [4]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain: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 & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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

Human Rights Watch (2012), Human Rights Watch Recommendations for Mozambique's Resettlement Decree, 17 September 2012,

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) (2014), Mozambique Country Analysis Note, Last Updated: July 2014,

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

[3] All Africa - Mozambique: The Cost of Land Grabbing in Tete Province

31st August 2017

By Burag Gurden and Eeb

[5] Vale Moçambique suspends work indefinitely on local complaints of pollution

8 October 2018

Clashes at coal mine owned by Vale in Mozambique, by Cecilia Jamasmie,, 17 April 2013,

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

Mozambique: Mining Resettlements Disrupt Food, Water, Human Rights Watch, 23 May 2013,

Mozambique protesters at Brazil-owned Vale coal mine, BBC News Africa, 17 April 2013,

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

Mozambique families protest against Brazil's Vale, by William Mapote, Reuters Africa, 10 January 2012,

DW - Moçambique: "Em Moatize vivem pessoas e não animais", diz morador

Data 09.11.2018

Amós Zacarias (Tete)

(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.

DW - Moçambique: Moradores em protesto paralisam mina da Vale em Moatize

Data 17.10.2018

Autoria Amós Zacarias (Tete)

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Human Rights Watch (2013), Mozambique: Protect the Rights of Farmers Resettled for Coal Mines, 22 May 2013,

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.

Other comments:According 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

Contributor:Boa Monjane / Martin
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1940



Protests of October 2018


Protests of October 2018


Map of mining licences in Tete province