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JA! Visit finds confusion and distrust in Cabo Delgado gas region

DSCF2153When JA! team visited Pemba at the end of February, 2019, the biggest city in Cabo Delgado province, to learn about the current situation of the ‘gas rush’ in northern Mozambique, it quickly became apparent to us that there is very little clarity and transparency about what is actually happening in the gas industry. Attacks on communities, land grabs, the stage of the companies’ operations, and even which companies are involved, have left people uncertain and confused.

 

The industry is constantly changing, with one example at the time being the pending takeover of US company Anadarko, which is the leader of one of the two major projects since it first ‘discovered’ gas in the Rovuma Basin in 2010. Just two weeks ago, Chevron put in a bit to purchase Anadarko for $ 33 billion, and a mere few days later, Occidental Petroleum tried to outbid them with $ 38 billion.

This has huge implications – communities who have been in communication with Anadarko about resettlement and compensation, or already signed agreements with them, the government’s financial agreements with Anadarko and investments in the project – these will all need to change, and more frighteningly, nobody knows how they will change.

 

Furthermore, the stages of the gas projects are constantly changing, new contractors come in and new deals are signed in the blink of eye. The official information out there is that In 2006, 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas was discovered in the Rovuma Basin off the coast of northern Mozambique. There are two concession areas that the Mozambique government has already given the rights away to:

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Area 1, the location of the Mozambique LNG Project, which was led by Anadarko, but will now be led by Chevron and Occidental Petroleum, and Area 4, the location of the Coral LNG Project that is lead by Eni and Exxon.*

And both projects have secured purchasers which ultimately has given them the financial green light to operate.

 

Over the last year, there have been many violent attacks on villages in the gas region, and there are different theories about who is responsible and who benefits from them. Due to these attacks, on this trip the JA! Team was unable to travel to the communities with which we work near Palma.

Instead, our focal point that we work with closely, arranged to bring two community members to meet us in Pemba instead.

 

Even though we were unable to travel to Palma during this visit, just meeting with people in Pemba – NGOs, activists and journalists – pointed us to an increasing number of issues arising. Basically, the more people we spoke to, the more people we realized we needed to speak to.

Two people from communities being affected by the industry, Crisanto Silva from Senga, and Burahani Adinane from Milamba, traveled six hours to tell us about the situation they are facing now.

 

Mr Burahani told us how his community left Milamba in February and are staying with family in Palma because they felt very unsafe, in constant fear of being attacked. He says that at the end of last year, Anadarko made an agreement with the community telling them what they would receive as compensation. They have not yet signed that agreement with the government, and Anadarko has not returned that agreement document to them as they said they would, so they are in a constant state of uncertainty and limbo.

 

He says that the compensation assessment process has been ridiculous – one way the company assesses someone’s land is by counting their belongings and compensating them financially for those goods.

 

People with 5 hectares (ha) of land are going to get only 1.5 ha in compensation,” he says. “I have 64 ha but will only get 1.5 ha!  The company did the measurement by counting the number of trees in the plot. I had 583 trees, but how do I fit that in 1 hectare?”

 

The fishing community is being moved 10 km inland, away from the sea, where it will be very difficult for them to get to their fishing grounds, which will also be the location of a new port construction project. And actually, people have lost access to the sea even before the process has been completed.

 

Now we will be resettled from the sea,” says Mr Burahani,and personally, i don’t know how to do anything but fish”.

 

Crisanto Silva, from Senga, which is the village that the removed communities will be resettled in, told us about the problem of the military in the area. Following the violent attacks on villages, mainly those around or in the gas region,  that have been taking place since October 2017, the government has brought the military, allegedly to protect the communities from the attackers. Nobody is sure about who is responsible for the attacks, but there are many theories going around. The official government line is that they are carried out by Muslim extremists, but many others believe that gas companies, or powerful people in government are responsible themselves.

 

However, Mr Crisanto says that the military who is supposed to be protecting them, instill fear in the community instead. They stand around drinking beer, says Mr Crisanto, and give the people of Senga a curfew of 8pm, and then beat up people who are out after that. “But the army is only in the village till midnight,” Mr Crisanto says, “which I don’t understand… We are too afraid to go to the fields but the army refuses to escort us, so we are left without food.”

 

Mr Crisanto also says that he knows the ecosystem will be completely destroyed, and the Anadarko and Exxon factories are right next to the port that will be built. The port will go 2km into the sea, and the excavation is disturbing the sea bed. This is really affecting fishing patterns and the amount of fish in the area.

 

After speaking with the community members, we held several other meetings that provided important information. One of the other urgent issues is that of media oppression – two community journalists from Cabo Delgado were imprisoned for a long time, with one, Amade Abubacar, detained from 5 January to 23 April 2019. While the official reason for his arrest is unclear, Amnesty International says the he was arrested for documenting deadly attacks by armed groups against civilians.

 

This has left the few journalists who are not following the mainstream government rhetoric in constant fear of their lives or of losing their credibility if they write or say anything which does not align with it. The journalists we spoke with insisted on speaking to us in our hotel room because even being seen with us would put them in danger.

 

We spoke with a few NGO’s, some of whom provided us with very interesting information. We learnt about the vast current issues with the resettlement process. For example, the areas where Anadarko plans to give people machambas (farmlands) is at high risk of attacks, and it is very difficult for civil society to physically go there to protect people from these attacks. Communities feel that monetary compensation is not enough, as it is their ancestral land that is being taken from them. When they have meetings with companies about the process, they are not given the space to ask questions, and when they hold meetings with civil society, the military appears to disrupt the meeting. Anadarko is also known to hold resettlement meetings with individual families, which is divisive, and there is growing hostility over who gets which machambas.

 

We also learnt that many areas in Cabo Delgado, including areas where people are given machambas, are actually not arable, because Portuguese colonizers used them to grow cotton plantations which utilized many chemicals and degraded the soils.

 

Another rather disturbing piece of information is that while we met several NGOs doing interesting work, there are very few in Cabo Delgado working on the gas issue that do not receive funding for some or other service from Anadarko. It raises questions of independence and transparency for us when NGOs receive money from the very companies they are supposed to be challenging.

 

After those few days we spent in Pemba, it became clear that things are changing very quickly – the presence of the companies and private security is growing, fear of attacks and military is increasing and people are already losing their homes and livelihoods. There is a sense of unease in the air – many people don’t want to talk, or if they do, are afraid to say anything openly against the government or industry.

 

There is no doubt that the need to stop the industry is urgent, as the devastation we are already seeing may be irreversible. We will continue to work closely with the affected communities, as part of a campaign that uses different approaches – local and international to stop gas in Mozambique!

Broken Lives,Stolen Futures. A short documentary made by JA! of the sad situation of the communities in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, affected by the gas exploration..

 

Of Coral FLNG, ExxonMobil owns a 35.7 percent interest in Eni East Africa S.p.A. (to be renamed Mozambique Rovuma Venture S.p.A.), which holds a 70 percent interest in Area 4, and is co-owned with Eni (35.7 percent) and CNPC (28.6 percent). The remaining interests in Area 4 are held by Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos E.P. (10 percent), Kogas (10 percent) and Galp Energia (10 percent).


In Mozambique LNG, Anadarko (soon to be taken over by Chevron or Occidental Petroleum or?) leads the LNG project with a 26.5 percent ownership stake. Other owners include the Mozambique state energy company, 15 percent; Japan’s Mitsui Group, 20 percent; India’s ONGC Videsh, 16 percent; India’s Bharat, 10 percent; Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production, 8.5 percent; and Oil India Ltd., 4 percent.

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