031110 A new study has found that SA coal reserves have been significantly downsized since 2003.photo by Simphiwe Mbokazi 453

Maputo - Mozambique will launch a round of bidding for coal mining in its Tete and Niassa provinces in June next year, a senior government official said on Tuesday.

“We will have a bidding round for coal probably in June next year. We will select some blocks in the province of Tete and Niassa,” Eduardo Alexandre, National Director of Mines in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference.

He declined to say how many blocks would be on offer.

Mozambique has seen a flood of foreign investment into its coal mining sector in the last few years.

The war-scarred southern African nation is estimated to have some of the world's largest reserves of coking coal, used in steel-making.

But a surge in kidnappings and political violence has worried some investors, and prompted Rio Tinto to withdraw expatriate employees' families earlier this month.

“I have been getting calls from abroad. People are concerned about what is going on in Mozambique. But be assured that this situation will be solved,” Alexandre said.

Other major companies developing big coal and gas reserves in the former Portuguese colony are Brazil's Vale, US oil company Anadarko and Italian oil and gas group Eni.

Alexandre also said there would be no bidding to develop gas reserves until parliament approved a new mining law.

“I don't know when Parliament will discuss the proposal but I would say maximum in the first quarter of 2014, it should be approved,” he said. - Reuters