The export of minerals from the interior of south-central Africa through the Port of Lobito, in Angola, by means of the Benguela Railway (Caminho de Ferro de Benguela – CFB) restarted during the first week of this month. This marked the resumption of a service that had been disrupted more than 30 years ago by the Angolan civil war.
The first train consisted of 25 wagons carrying 50 containers, filled with 1 000 t of manganese ore. The shipment came from the Entreprise Minière de Kisenge Manganèse (EMKM), in the Kisenge district of Katanga province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The reinitiation of the service was made possible by the complete reconstruction of the line by the China Railway 20 Bureau Group Company, the Macauhub news agency reported. The project cost $1.83-billion and involved the laying of the track and the construction of 67 stations, as well as the supply of locomotives and rolling stock. The route between Lobito (which lies in Benguela province) and the most westerly station in Angola (Luau, in Moxico province, which lies on the border with the DRC) is 1 344 km long.
To promote the use of the CFB and Lobito to export mineral ores, the Angolan government has reduced customs dues payable on goods transported on the line. The first ore shipment from Kisenge to Lobito paid tariffs of just 22 000 kwanzas ($103), regional director (Seventh Taxation Region) Inácio Morango told Angolan news agency Angop. Maximising the traffic on the CFB will allow the large-scale investments made in its reconstruction to be amortised, he pointed out.
In terms of the initial accord between the CFB and the DRC’s railways (the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer du Congo), one train of 25 wagons (carrying 50 containers) runs from Kisenge to Lobito each week. However, CFB board chairperson Luís Teixeira has stated that the DRC government has indicated that it is planning to expand the scale of operations, adding 50 more wagons and increasing the frequency of the trains to five a week. (EMKM is reported to be increasing its production. It is believed that it already has a stockpile of 540 000 t of manganese ore at its Kisenge operation.)
Teixeira also reported that his company was in talks with other companies in the Kolwezi district of Lualaba province, in the DRC. All being well, they would start exporting copper through Lobito through the CFB within the next six months.
Exporters in Zambia will also be able to use the line. (The official reinauguration of the restored CFB, in 2015, was attended by the President of Zambia as well as the Presidents of Angola and the DRC.)
There is once more a continuous railway link from Lobito, on the Atlantic coast, to Beira, in Mozambique, on the Indian Ocean coast. In fact, most of the railways of Southern Africa are now, once more, interconnected. (The CFB is one of three railway networks in Angola, which do not connect with one another.)