Rio Tinto in Mozambique withdraws expatriate families over safety


MAPUTO, Nov 1 (Reuters) - London-listed Rio Tinto said on Friday it was withdrawing expatriate employees' familiesfrom Mozambique over safety concerns, but its coal mining andshipment operations in the southern African state werecontinuing.

The move reflected growing international alarm overinsecurity in Mozambique, which has seen an upsurge inkidnappings in major cities and where government forces haveclashed with Renamo opposition guerrillas in the centre and thenorth.

"The safety of employees and their families is the numberone priority," Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique said in a statementannouncing the precaution, which it said was temporary.

It added: "Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique's operations continueas planned, including the shipment of coal."

The London-listed company, along with Brazil's Vale, mines coal in northwest Tete province and ships it byrail to the coast for export.

In June, Rio Tinto briefly suspended coal exports because ofthreats by Renamo, which is demanding political reforms fromPresident Armando Guebuza's government, to disrupt rail traffic.

Since April, Renamo guerrillas have carried out ambushes andraids against civilians and on police and army posts in centralMozambique.

On Thursday, tens of thousands of Mozambicans marched in thecapital Maputo and two other cities to protest against thethreat of armed conflict in the country and the spate ofkidnappings for ransom by criminal gangs.

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