Mozambique's Energy Minister Pedro Couto has been removed from his post, the presidency said on Sept. 29, one month before Italy's Eni is due to finalize an offshore gas project worth tens of billions of dollars.

No reason was given for the dismissal of Couto, who had held the energy portfolio since January 2015.

The southern African state discovered offshore gas reserves six years ago amounting to about 85 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), one of the largest finds in a decade and enough to supply Germany, Britain, France and Italy for nearly two decades.

The gas offers Mozambique an opportunity to transform itself from one of the world's poorest countries into a middle-income state and a major global LNG exporter.

Negotiations with operators Eni and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC) have dragged on for years due to disputes over terms and concerns about falling energy prices. However, there have been several signs of significant progress in recent months.

Eni met with bankers in London during the week of Sept. 19 about project financing to develop the Coral Field, a significant step in getting the first of a series of long-delayed LNG projects off the ground.

Eni struck a deal in July with Samsung Heavy Industries as part of a consortium with France's Technip and Japan's JGC to build a floating LNG platform in a deal worth about $5.4 billion.

ExxonMobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) is close to buying into Eni's Mozambique's assets, sources told Reuters last month.