MAPUTO (Reuters) - London-listed Rio Tinto said on Friday it was withdrawing expatriate employees' families from Mozambique over safety concerns, but its coal mining and shipment operations in the southern African state were continuing.
The move reflected growing international alarm over insecurity in Mozambique, which has seen an upsurge in kidnappings in major cities and where government forces have clashed with Renamo opposition guerrillas in the centre and the north.
"The safety of employees and their families is the number one priority," Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique said in a statement announcing the precaution, which it said was temporary.
It added: "Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique's operations continue as planned, including the shipment of coal."
The London-listed company, along with Brazil's Vale, mines coal in northwest Tete province and ships it by rail to the coast for export.
In June, Rio Tinto briefly suspended coal exports because of threats by Renamo, which is demanding political reforms from President Armando Guebuza's government, to disrupt rail traffic.
Since April, Renamo guerrillas have carried out ambushes and raids against civilians and on police and army posts in central Mozambique.
On Thursday, tens of thousands of Mozambicans marched in the capital Maputo and two other cities to protest against the threat of armed conflict in the country and the spate of kidnappings for ransom by criminal gangs.