French energy giant Total confirmed on Monday that it is suspending work on a huge $ 20 billion gas project in northern Mozambique after the last jihadist attack on a nearby city last month.
“Considering the evolution of the security situation … Total confirms the removal of all personnel from the Mozambique LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas] project from the Afungi site,” the company said in a statement.
Total added that it was declaring a situation of “force majeure” out of its control, a legal concept that means that it can suspend the fulfillment of contractual obligations.
A jihadist raid on March 24 in Palma, in the province of Cabo Delgado, in northern Mozambique, led Total to remove the remaining personnel from the natural gas site.
He had already evacuated some workers and suspended construction in January after a series of nearby jihadist attacks.
Last week, the Confederation of Economic Associations of Mozambique (CTA) said that Total suspended contracts with a number of companies indirectly involved in the gas project.
CTA President Agostinho Vuma said at the time that Total had guaranteed that the gas project would be resumed “as soon as it was safe”, although the energy company itself declined to comment.
Gas-rich, Cabo Delgado has been punished by a bloody jihadist insurgency since 2017.
The violence killed at least 2,600 people and displaced nearly 700,000, raising doubts about the viability of the largest single investment in Africa, even before the last attack.
The March attack on Palma occurred just 10 kilometers (six miles) from the gas project’s nerve center, despite the government’s commitment to establish a 25-kilometer safety radius around the site.
Dozens were killed in the attack, according to the provisional government’s accounts.
Hundreds of other people, including many foreign workers, were evacuated by air and sea while thousands of locals walked to nearby districts.
The LNG project includes the development of the offshore natural gas fields of Golfinho and Atum and the construction of a liquefaction plant for two trains.
Total, the project operator, obtained a $ 14.9 billion debt financing package in July to finance its implementation.