Little more than a decade ago, Mozambique’s Tete province was touted to become the Queensland of southeastern Africa. That’s not to say that this inland region rivals the Australian state’s pristine beaches or exotic fauna and flora, but rather that masses of coal found in Mozambique could be compared with those of Queensland, a coal-mining powerhouse that contributes enormously to eastern Australia’s economy.

Among those punting the Mozambique dream was Australian-listed Riversdale Mining. It did the feasibility work in the area and confirmed the existence of huge untapped coal reserves, now estimated at 25-billion tons...

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