Cabo Delgado, Mozambique: A Resource-Rich War Zone


Cabo Delgado, Mozambique

Project risks:

Conflict/Violence, Environmental Destruction, Social Harm, Litigation


  • Eni SpA
  • TotalEnergies SE
  • Exxon Mobil Corporation
  • Mitsui & Co Ltd
  • Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos EP (ENH)
  • Japan Organization for Metals and Energy Security (JOGMEC)
  • Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC)
  • Oil India Ltd
  • Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd
  • PTT Exploration and Production Public Company Ltd (PTTEP)
  • Galp Energia SGPS SA
  • Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS)
  • China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)
  • Rovuma LNG SA
  • Moz LNG1 Holding Company Ltd
  • Bharat PetroResources Ltd (BPRL)
  • PTT Public Company Ltd

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Approximate location. By zooming in, you can recognize the construction area of TotalEnergies' Mozambique LNG.

Different forces are tearing the Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado and its people apart. In a country that was already rife with conflict, ExxonMobil, TotalEnergies, Eni and their partners have come in to develop one of the biggest gas projects on the African continent.

Before the gas majors came, Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province was a tourist hotspot.[1] The province lies in the North of the country, close to the border of Tanzania.[2] In the East, it borders the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.[3] The Quirimbas National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, lies along the coast, onshore and off the shore.[4] Its ocean is home to sea turtles, dolphins and whales.[5] Beautiful coral reefs stretch 400 km (250 mi) along the shore.[6] On land, elephants, lions, leopards and crocodiles roam through the National Park’s ancient forests.[7] If the gas companies caused just one single accident, they could completely destabilize this biodiversity paradise.[8] 

For centuries, national elites and multinational corporations have been plundering the province’s abundant natural resources.[9] Their greed for Cabo Delgado’s ruby, graphite, gold and timber has made it one of Mozambique's poorest provinces.[10][11] The people who live in Cabo Delgado have never seen any of this resource wealth. They live off farming and fishing.[12] Many people have no access to health care, education or jobs.[13]

Since their arrival in Cabo Delgado, the gas companies have only added to the woes caused by this resource curse. In 2010 and 2011, geologists found enormous fossil gas reserves off the coast of Cabo Delgado.[14] International gas companies sensed big money and immediately began investing billions of dollars.[15] Now, Cabo Delgado houses three of the largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in Africa: TotalEnergies’ Mozambique LNG, Eni and ExxonMobil’s Coral South FLNG and ExxonMobil, Eni and CNPC’s Rovuma LNG.[16]

International gas companies want to exploit the gas resources off the coast of Cabo Delgado. They are setting up three of the largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.

As the main operators of the gas projects in Cabo Delgado, TotalEnergies, Eni and ExxonMobil promised the people there that they too would benefit from the gas discovery.[17][18][19] Instead, the companies bulldozed their villages to make space for gas processing facilities.[20] TotalEnergies alone forced 557 families to leave their land and homes behind.[21] The land that the government offered the people as compensation on behalf of the companies, is as much as ten times smaller than the land they originally owned.[22] Often, it is far away from the sea without adequate public transport to reach the coast.[23] To only get a tiny plot of land kilometers away from the coast is disastrous for people who depend on farming and fishing.[24] Many families are still waiting for their promised compensation.[25] TotalEnergies has recognized at least some of its failures, but no one knows if they will actually improve compensation in future.15141

The companies are bulldozing the people’s villages and forcing them to move into resettlement villages. Credit: Justiça Ambiental! (Friends of the Earth Mozambique)

With their projects, TotalEnergies, ExxonMobil and Eni pushed the people from Cabo Delgado even deeper into poverty.[26] For each day the gas companies stayed in Cabo Delgado, people became more frustrated.[27] Once again, huge foreign companies were making money at their expense.[28] This was the perfect breeding ground for the extremist insurgency that was about to erupt.[29]

In 2017, a few years after the gas companies arrived in Cabo Delgado, terrorists began devastating the region.[30] Since then, rebels have been attacking the government and gas projects – but mainly civilians. They are forcing people out of their villages to then burn them down.[31] Journalists report that extremists are beheading men and chopping up their bodies.[32] Rebels are raping women in the forest and kidnapping boys to force them to join their violent groups.[33][34] In some cases, the girls they kidnap have to serve as their wives.[35] Since 2017, the extremists have killed over 4,000 people.15147 Almost one million people people have had to flee.15147 During their escape, thousands of children have lost their parents.[38] Many still don’t know where they are, how to find them or whether they are still alive.[39]

Eni, ExxonMobil, TotalEnergies and the other gas companies are prioritizing the protection of their gas projects over people’s lives. They are paying the government to mobilize troops to defend their LNG infrastructure instead of the people.15147 Cabo Delgado is now a war-torn place; the people who live in the province are those who suffer most.[41] Many people are afraid to leave their homes to go to work or get food. When they do leave their homes, they often fear for their lives. Rebels could attack them or the military could mistake them for rebels and attack them.[44] 

The people in the village of Milamba are dependent on fishing. Credit: Justiça Ambiental! (Friends of the Earth Mozambique)

In March 2021, the violence escalated further. In their largest and most organized attack so far, hundreds of heavily armed extremists took over the town of Palma.[45] Palma is a fishing town and the center of the gas industry.[46][47] For more than four days, the extremists robbed food shops and banks, set fire to government buildings, burned down people’s homes and killed dozens of people.[48] Their terrorist attack displaced around 40,000 of the 75,000 people who used to live in the town.[49][50]

The extremists’ attack on Palma was also an attack on the gas companies. When the companies realized their projects were no longer safe, they immediately reacted. French energy giant TotalEnergies suspended its operations in the province.[51] It simply left the country without having paid the promised compensation to many of the people it displaced.[52] Survivors of the 2021 attack are now taking the company to court over its failure to help them evacuate.19237 TotalEnergies allegedly refused to provide fuel to a company that was evacuating civilians.

In 2022, the gas giants began moving forward with their plans again. Eni’s massive floating liquefaction facility exported its first LNG in November 2022.12367 The company is already eyeing new projects in the country.15147 TotalEnergies has told construction companies to resume their work.1514715147 However, the main financial backer of the project is not sure it will follow through.15147 New attacks could delay the projects further.15147 Only during the week of TotalEnergies’ CEO’s visit of the area, media outlets reported three fatal attacks.15147 Overall militarization of the region will only increase as the EU seeks to protect the Mozambican gas destined for Europe.15147 For the people in the region, the return of the gas companies is no reason to celebrate. ExxonMobil, TotalEnergies, Eni and their partners will continue to trap the people in poverty, fear and violence for the sake of their own profit.

“What is happening around my islands now reminds me of events in the Niger River delta. Ever since oil was found there, the region has struggled to find peace. The environment has been destroyed and law and order has collapsed. Nowhere in Africa, have oil and gas been good for the people. I wish the gas had never been found."

Issa Tarmamade, mayor of the Ibo island district in Cabo Delgado.15147

Groups working on gas in Cabo Delgado: Justiça Ambiental! (Friends of the Earth Mozambique), Friends of the Earth International, Les Amis de la Terre France, EWNI (Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands), Re:Common, Friends of the Earth US, Gastivists

Parts of the information presented in this text and in the sources has been collected and investigated by Friends of the Earth Mozambique / Justiça Ambiental! who work closely with communities in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.


In March 2023, TotalEnergies announced the publication of a report on the human rights situation in Mozambique ordered by the company. In the press release, the company among others pledged to speed up the compensation process. As for now, these are just words.………
Report on the socioeconomic, humanitarian and human rights situation in the Palma Afungi-Mocímboa area (Cabo Delgado), P.19-20:…