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BHP Billington Mozal aluminium smelter, Mozambique

A big smelter that consumes much cheap electricity. In 2010 (according to Justiça Ambiental) it bypassed its filters for 4 months, spewing toxic gases straight into the air of Maputo.


Mozambique has considerable energy resources: natural gas in deep waters, an estimated hydropower potential of 12,000 MW and vast coal reserves with the potential of generating up to 5,000 MW [1]. The Cahora Bassa hydropower dam in Tete Central Province, with 2,075  MW electricity generation capacity, is one of the largest hydropower installations in Africa. The proposed controversial large scale Mpanda Nkuwa dam (with a potential power generation of 2,500 MW) would also increase the country's electricity generation.  Most of Cahora Bassa’s electricity is exported to South Africa (and Zimbabwe). Shockingly, Mozambique buys back its own electricity from South Africas Eskom. Once Mozambique buys it back, a large part of this electricity is actually used up by the Mozal aluminum smelter that is owned by Australia-based BHP Billiton (47%), the Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan (25%), the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (24%) and the Government of Mozambique (4%).  One episode of struggle against MOZAL took place in 2010. The environmentalist group, Justiça Ambiental (member of Friends of the Earth International) explained [2] that " Mozal is an aluminum smelter situated in the outskirts of Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, in a densely populated area. It is mostly owned by BHP Billiton, with other smaller shareholders such as Mitsubishi Corporation, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Government of Mozambique.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:BHP Billington Mozal aluminium smelter, Mozambique
State or province:Maputo
Location of conflict:Beluluane
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Metal refineries
Specific commodities:Aluminum/Bauxite
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Mozal is an aluminium smelter joint project in Beluluane Industrial Park, Maputo, Mozambique. The project is a smelting facility that began operations as a producer of aluminium exclusively for export. The smelter is located 20 kilometres west of the city of Maputo. It consumes a large part of the electricity available in Mozambique, and gives a meager economic return to the government of the country.[5] In 2010 because of Mozal's poor operating conditions, weak maintenance, bad monitoring and fundamental design faults, with numerous reports of random discharges and regular events where the filters are bypassed, a crisis was reached. Mozal was forced to deal with the fundamental design faults and filter problems that plagued its operations. Without any public consultations or discussions, Mozal merely informed the public that the system would need rehabilitation. Their method for rehabilitation was that the smelter would bypass its pollution filters for 4 months, emitting tars and toxic gases directly into the air, while it repaired its corroded air filter systems. There was much opposition. An attempt to get redress through the OCDE focal point in London, failed to reach conclusions.

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Level of Investment:1,300,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:BHP Billiton (BHP) from United Kingdom
Mitsubishi Corp. from Japan
South 32 from Australia
Relevant government actors:Government of Mozambique
International and Finance Institutions International Finance Corporation (of World Bank) (IFC) from United States of America
European Investment Bank (EIB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Justiça Ambiental (Mozambique)
Centro Terra Viva
Mozambican Human Rights League
Centre for Public Integrity
Friends of the Earth International
Jubilee Debt Campaign
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution
Potential: Soil contamination
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsRisk of fluorosis
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsThere are claims that economic benefits go abroad, and taxes on aluminium exports and royalties are too low or non-existent. This apart from the riky situation created in 2010 by the emissions of effluents.
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The company was not fined for release of pollutants in 2010. Moreover the company gets cheap electricity from Cahora Bassa (Mozambique), and it is claimed that it pays very low taxes / royalties, and makes huge profits from exports.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Mozambique: an energy rich country in the dark, by Boaventura Monjane. Presented to the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Center for African Studies conference: Power Africa: Promises, Potentials, Pitfalls, and Possible Alternatives. March 24, 2015.

2005. Excellent report from International Rivers Network on the connection between hydroelectric dams and aluminium smelting across the world. Mozal in Mozambique briefly mentioned.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[3] Project description, from Billiton BHP
[click to view]

[4] Fabio Scala February 13, 2017. Further Africa. Mozambique’s Mozal smelter expansion on course, but electricity is needed.
[click to view]

Mozal by pass is causing a stink. Process will emit potentially dangerous fumes. Business Day. 19 Nov 2010.
[click to view]

[5] The Guardian, Mozambique smelting profits should not fill foreign coffers, say campaigners. UK government and World Bank among investors accused of benefiting disproportionately from lucrative Mozal smelter (8 Jan. 2013)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[2]. 2010. Justiça Ambiental. MOZAL. We are working to force Mozal to reduce their emissions in order to protect the health of mozambican citizens.
[click to view]

Other documents

[click to view]

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Last update31/07/2017
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