Africa Leaders Magazine

TETE, MOZAMBIQUE – the “City of Coal”

Tete, port city, west-central Mozambique. Tete is situated on the right bank of the Zambezi River near the rich coal mines of Moatize. Under Portuguese influence Tete had become a market centre for ivory and gold by the mid-17th century. Given a town charter in 1761, it became a city in 1959. It is connected to the Indian Ocean by railway to the port of Beira and by the Zambezi River.

About 80 miles (125 km) northwest of Tete is the Cahora Bassa dam and hydroelectric-power project on the Zambezi River; Lake Cahora Bassa, created by the dam, extends about 150 miles (240 km) west to the Zambian border. The Cahora Bassa project supplies power to South Africa, Maputo city, Tete, and the coal mines at Moatize. The climate and soils of the Angonia Highlands favour some cattle raising and the cultivation of cassava and sorghum. Pop. (2007 prelim.) 152,909.


History of coal discovery

In 1859 Richard Thornton completed the first studies of coal occurrence in the Tete Province as part of an exhibition under Dr. David Livingstone. In his report from the trip, Mr. Thornton stated that the coal, which was dug by natives from an outcropping seam on the bank of the River Muntizi, showed no tendency to cake; was free-burning; contained very little sulphur or iron although a large proportion of ash along with a small amount of gaseous matter

Coal reserves

The Tete Province is reported to host coal reserves of approximately 6.7 billion tons, of which 3 billion tons represent sub-economic or economic grades. Now, the province is regarded geologically as the largest undiscovered coal province in the world and it is estimated that the Province could be producing 25% of the world’s coking coal by 2025.

Moatize coal deposit

The largest coal reserve presently discovered in the Tete Province is the Moatize metallurgical and thermal coal deposit which contains 2.4 billion tons of coal and is located with the Moatize sub-basin. Vale SA bid US$122.8 million for exploration and development rights of the project in 2008. Today, the project is a working mine that has now doubled its original output and is producing 22 million metric tons of coal per year

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Local coal geology

Most coal resources are located within the remnants of the Ecca Rock Group, member of the Karoo Supergroup, and are hosted within the Zambezi graben. The coal seams were formed during the early and late Permian and deposits are associated with non-marine terrestrial clastic sedimentary sequences of the Karoo Supergroup. Depositional environments were primarily fluvial and deltaic but also included some minor lacustrine and shoreline settings.[

Coal licenses

In Mozambique, 95% of coal licenses issued have been granted to forty different companies operating within the Tete Province. On 29 September 2011 the Mozambican government suspended the issuing of new coal licenses in the Tete Province in order to assess to what extent companies currently hold licenses in the Province and whether they are complying with contracts signed by the government.

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Investment in coal development

A large amount of investment has been made portending to the development of coal resources and infrastructure required for mining and development. The International Finance Corporation, member of the World Bank Group has announced that it will invest up to US$5 million in Baobab Resources Plc’s exploration projects with the intention of fostering economic development.

In 2011 Vale approved a US$6 billion expansion of its Moatize coal project in order to increase output from 11 million tons per year mined initially to 22 million tons per year.

The Mozambican government have undertaken a US$375 million refurbishment of the 600 km rail link between Moatize and Beira which was severely damaged during the Mozambican Civil War. Furthermore, a deep-water international port facility is being constructed in Beira. In addition to this port at Beira, a coal terminal at Chinde, north of Beira is being planned by coal producers that will have a 20 million tonne terminal and whose opening will coincide with the beginning of production at the Zambeze Project, owned by Rio Tinto, in 2015. The link between Beira Port and the Tete Province is being referred to as the ‘Beira Corridor’, along which there are now plans to upgrade all major rail freight routes so that they have the capacity to transport coal resources.



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