TotalEnergies refutes allegations of manslaughter and negligence during insurgent attacks in Mozambique

France’s energy giant TotalEnergies has denied the accusations of negligence and manslaughter, which were recently raised in a complaint concerning its actions and events that unfolded during the 2021 insurgent attacks in Mozambique. In addition, the oil major provided an in-depth summary of the emergency assistance provided by the Mozambique LNG teams and the resources mobilized to evacuate more than 2,500 people from the Afungi site where the project is located.

Mozambique LNG

On March 24, 2021, there was an insurgent attack in the Cabo Delgado province against the town of Palma, close to the Mozambique LNG project at the Afungi site. The Islamic insurgent group, known as Al-Shabaab, subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack against the civilian population, which lasted for several days.

As a result, TotalEnergies halted the work on the Mozambique LNG project and declared force majeure in April 2021 due to insurgent attacks that occurred close to the construction camp, after taking into consideration the evolution of the security situation in the north of Cabo Delgado province. As a result, the development and start-up of the LNG project was put on hold.

At the start of February 2023, TotalEnergies’ CEO visited the Afungi industrial site, the resettlement village of Quitunda, the towns of Palma and Mocimboa da Praia and met with President Filipe Nyusi to discuss the security and humanitarian situation in Cabo Delgado province. During the visit, Jean-Christophe Rufin, an expert in humanitarian action and human rights, was appointed to assess the humanitarian situation in Cabo Delgado province, evaluate the actions taken by Mozambique LNG, and propose any additional actions to be implemented, if required.

However, victims’ relatives and survivors of the 2021 insurgent attack in Mozambique bound together to file a complaint for negligence and indirect manslaughter against TotalEnergies, accusing it of failing to ensure the safety of subcontractors. Following the filing of the complaint for “manslaughter and a failure to assist people in danger” during “the terrorist attacks” that took place in northern Mozambique in March 2021, TotalEnergies categorically rejected these accusations and detailed the emergency assistance provided along with resources to evacuate civilians, personnel, contractors, and subcontractors.

While explaining that it was not provided access to the complaint, the French giant highlighted: “The conflict in the Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique predates gas development in the region and is linked to many factors unrelated to Mozambique LNG.”

Mozambique LNG’s efforts deemed ‘quite exceptional’

According to TotalEnergies, Mozambique LNG implemented the measures required by the emergency and following security procedures, including a pre-established evacuation plan. The firm is adamant that it evacuated a large number of civilians and provided emergency aid, medical care, and human and material resources to the civilians sheltering at the entrance to the site.

“As soon as the attacks had started and the situation had been assessed, Mozambique LNG lent its assistance to the Mozambican authorities, namely by supplying fuel for the evacuation and rescue operations. The runway at the Afungi site was used by the authorities of Mozambique and international organizations operating in the area to evacuate people by air. Mozambique LNG employees distributed food and water to civilians sheltering at the entrance to the Afungi site,” elaborated TotalEnergies.

Furthermore, TotalEnergies underlined that the Mozambique LNG medical teams were mobilized to provide emergency medical assistance to injured civilians who were evacuated by air and sea from the Afungi site. The site’s hospital was also made available. In addition, Mozambique LNG also evacuated more than 2,500 people, including many civilians by air and sea, especially by chartering a ferry for this purpose. When it comes to the resources mobilized to deal with the situation, the French oil major described these as “quite exceptional” for a company.

“To the best of our knowledge, there exists no official count of the number of dead and missing civilians following the Palma attack, but this tragic terrorist attack claimed many lives and caused part of the civilian population to flee the area,” added the French player.

Regarding the blame made against TotalEnergies for having refused to supply fuel to the South African private security company DAG, the oil major claims that this firm was contracted in 2020 by the government of Mozambique to carry out “offensive, military security missions against terrorist groups in northern Mozambique.”

The French giant further underscored: “Security at the Afungi site was provided by government security forces. During 2020, several NGOs reported serious crimes against local people supposedly perpetrated by DAG. For these reasons, Mozambique LNG decided that it would not support the offensive military operations carried out by DAG but has provided its assistance in rescue operations carried out under the authority of the government security forces.”

Evacuation of all personnel and subcontractors’ workforce undertaken

Concerning the care of Mozambique LNG staff, contractors, and subcontractors during the attacks, TotalEnergies points out that the evacuation plan implemented in March 2021 in the aftermath of the attack on Palma involved all personnel working on the Afungi site, including those of Mozambique LNG’s contractors and their subcontractors.

The Franch player emphasizes that the number of employees of Mozambique LNG, its contractors, and their subcontractors was significantly reduced in early 2021, following the intensification of “the terrorist threat.” The remaining mobilized personnel of Mozambique LNG, the contractors, and their subcontractors were accommodated on the Afungi site and were instructed to remain inside the site at all times for security reasons, says the company.

According to the information available to Mozambique LNG, these instructions were passed on by its contractors to their employees and subcontractors, and no contractor has informed the company of the presence of employees outside the Afungi site. During the attack on Palma, TotalEnergies reiterates that Mozambique LNG ensured the evacuation of all its personnel and subcontractors’ personnel from the Afungi site, as well as a large number of civilians.

“In total, more than 2,500 people, half of whom were personnel of Mozambique LNG and of its contractors and half civilians fleeing the combat zone, were evacuated from the Afungi site by sea using a ferry mobilized by Mozambique LNG and by air (plane and helicopter),” noted the French player.

What happened after the March 2021 insurgent attacks?

As the government of Mozambique is responsible for restoring security, thanks to its efforts, with the support of the South African Development Community and Rwanda, TotalEnergies points out that the security situation has improved significantly in Cabo Delgado since 2021, and insurgent activities have decreased substantially.

“Mozambique LNG monitors the security situation on an ongoing basis with the assistance of internal and external experts. Several audits have been conducted and have confirmed the significant improvement in the security situation in the Cabo Delgado region. The decision to restart the project depends on the ability to complete the project under good security conditions. This position is shared by all of Mozambique LNG’s partners. Current activities on site are limited to strengthening security infrastructure and improving access roads,” outlined the French oil major.

Aside from this, TotalEnergies reveals that Mozambique LNG is implementing “a major program of socio-economic initiatives for the local community to promote local economic development, contribute to the stabilization of the area, and support local communities.” This socio-economic program for Cabo Delgado is part of the Pamoja Tunaweza initiative, which followed on from the emergency humanitarian aid that was “quickly deployed” by Mozambique LNG after the attacks on Palma, particularly the supply of food, concluded the French firm.

Mozambique LNG, which began with the discovery of a vast quantity of natural gas off the coast of northern Mozambique in 2010, leading to a $20 billion final investment decision in 2019, is the first onshore development of an LNG plant in the country and entails the development of the Golfinho and Atum fields located in Rovuma Offshore Area 1 alongside the construction of two liquefaction trains with a total capacity of 13.1 mtpa.

The project, which is not expected to start commercial operations before 2027 or 2028, is positioned to meet Atlantic and Asia-Pacific market needs, as well as tap into the growing energy demands of the Middle East and Indian subcontinent. Area 1 contains approximately 65 Tcf of gas resources, of which 18 Tcf will be developed with the first two trains.

TotalEnergies EP Mozambique Area 1 Limitada, a wholly owned subsidiary of TotalEnergies SE, operates the Mozambique LNG project with a 26.5% stake, together with Mitsui E&P Mozambique Area1 Limited (20%), ENH Rovuma Área 1 (15%), ONGC Videsh Rovuma Limited (10%), Beas Rovuma Energy Mozambique Limited (10%), BPRL Ventures Mozambique (10%), and PTTEP Mozambique Area 1 Limited (8.5%).