The Mozambique government has acquired a 5% share in the Moatize coal project, owned and operated by Brazilian mining major Vale.
This was revealed last week by the country’s Mineral Resources Minister, Esperança Bias. This 5% share in the project is held by the State-owned Mozambican Mineral Exploration Company, which was recently created to safeguard the country’s interests in coal (and other mining) projects. Minister Bias did not reveal the cost of the acquisition.
Vale, the world’s second largest mining group in terms of market capitalisation, has so far invested $1.3-billion in Moatize, which started exporting coal during the second half of 2011. Its production for last year was 620 000 t. At full production, Phase 1 of the project will have a nominal yearly production capacity of 8.5-million tons of metallurgical coal and 2.5-million tons of thermal coal, for a total of 11-million tons. Vale will invest another $2.07-million before the end of 2014 to execute Phase 2, which will double Moatize’s output capacity.
“It is our objective to guarantee a Mozambican interest, even though minority, in the great enterprises in the sector, including coal and hydrocarbons,” she explained. The government in Maputo now intends to acquire a similar stake in Rio Tinto’s Benga project which, like Moatize, lies in the country’s Tete province. Rio Tinto is the world’s third largest miner by market capitalisation.
Benga started exports in June and stage one, which involved an investment of $270- million, will have an annual production capacity of 1.7-million tons of metallurgical coal and 300 000 t/y of thermal coal. Stage two, which will commence by 2014, will involve a further investment of $150-million and boost yearly production capacity to 3.3-million tons of metallurgical coal, and 2-million tons of thermal coal. A projected stage three will roughly double production in comparison with stage two. Rio Tinto holds 65% of Benga and 35% is held by Tata Steel of India.
These acquisitions of equity in the country’s two biggest coal projects are not unheralded. In fact, the concessions granted to the mining groups allow the Mozambique State to acquire a shareholding of up to 25% in these major projects, and this right is maintained by government. However, government plans not to hold all of the shares it is entitled to, but to transfer some to Mozambique businesspeople and companies, who would not have the financial resources to acquire such shareholdings directly.
Meanwhile, Planning and Development Minister Aiuba Cuereneia reported last week that the “excessive” fiscal incentives awarded to foreign investors to attract large-scale investments to the country were coming to an end. “Since the year 2007 we have had a new law which significantly reduces the incentives for megaprojects, principally in the mineral extraction area,” he said. “Regarding earlier projects, such as Sasol, Mozal and Kenmare, most of these are in the last phase of the fiscal benefits which they were granted, which means that some are already paying, or will start paying, the Treasury in the near future.”
The first of these major projects was the Mozal aluminium smelter, authorised in 1997, just five years after the end of a 16-year civil war in 1992. Mozal’s biggest shareholder is BHP Billiton, with a 47.1% share, followed by Mitsubishi of Japan with 25%, South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation with 24% and the government of Mozambique with 3.9%. It started production in 2000 and was the first major foreign investment in the country. (As BHP Billiton is the world’s biggest mining group by market capital- isation, this means that all of the Big Three miners are now established in Mozambique.)
The Sasol project involves the extraction of natural gas from two fields (Temane and Pande) in Mozambique and piping it to South Africa. The total investment was $2.1-billion and it started operating in 2004. Sasol holds 70% of both fields and 50% of the pipeline.
Kenmare Resources developed the Moma heavy minerals sands (ilmenite, rutile and zircon) project, which is located on Mozambique’s northeastern coast and which started production in 2007.