Coal, an untapped commodity in Mozambique’s Tete city

 Mozambique’s Tete City, with its untapped coal reserves estimated at 23 billion tonnes has a logistical nightmare in moving its precious commodity. Moving it out and getting the coal to port is a headache with trucks queuing to cross the bridge that spans the Zambezi river in this northern city of Mozambique.

Countries like China, Brazil, India and Australia have invested in Mozambique. China invested over five years and last August signed a five-year deal. Investments include Brazilian mining giant Vale, and Australia’s Riversdale, with 24 percent owned by India’s Tata that have invested 1.5 billion dollars. Coal wealth is not a new discovery but being one of the poorest countries in the world, Mozambique is recovering after nearly two decades of civil war and has opened its territory to nations and companies seeking mineral resources.

This city located in a remote corner of the country was taken by surprise and thousands of Mozambicans flocked there in the past five years. Due to the rapid and sudden development the population has grown significantly. Deputy-mayor Arnaldo Morais Charimba said: “Because it was so quick, Tete was not ready”. Around the city, roads and railways are being reconstructed and the existing 720-metre bridge was meant to reopen last December but unfortunately it did not open on the proposed date. The Sena railway line was partly reopened last year and later this year the train is expected to carry six million tonnes of coal from Vale and Riversdale to Beira. When production starts in six months delays at Beira may stall exports while mines are ready. Countries are exploring other ways to get their cargo out of the country with production expected to triple in a few years.

No reconstruction work has started on the old terminal, while another terminal is planned for later and so an atmosphere of development is not necessarily being felt. “If the port is not ready, there is no other way to get the cargo” says Fanoe.

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