South Africa hosts 80% of the world’s identified manganese reserves, which are in Hotazel, in the Northern Cape, and if State-owned rail logistics group Transnet succeeds in increasing its rail capacity from Hotazel, South Africa will increase its manganese production, and strengthen its market position.
“The rail capacity from Hotazel to Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape, currently stands at five-million tons. The export of manganese ore is constrained by this capacity, except for the manganese ore that can be transported by road,” says global advisory firm KPMG energy and natural resources director Nick van Niekerk.
Diversified miner BHP Billiton CEO Marius Kloppers told Mining Weekly in August 2009 that, for South Africa to compete globally, a lower-cost, higher-capacity manganese export route was needed.
Two years later, Transnet was considering whether to increase the export of manganese to 12-million tons a year, which could be facilitated through the provision of dedicated capacity at South Africa’s newest deep-water harbour at the Port of Ngqura, 30 km north-east of Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape. Transnet has committed to vacating the existing manganese terminal at Port Elizabeth by 2016, which could involve an investment of between R10-billion and R20-billion.
This supports President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address in February, during which he mentioned the allocation of R300-billion for developing rail and road infrastructure in South Africa.
Van Niekerk mentions that manganese pro- ducers are in discussions with Transnet to speed up the process of doubling rail capacity because they need to make use of it.
As part of its rail expansion plan, Transnet tested 18 diesel locomotives in September – four test coaches and 208 loaded CR wagons. This was done at black-controlled emerging manganese miner Tshipi e Ntle’s recently constructed rail siding. The locomotives, wagons and coaches were tested on Tshipi’s railway line, from Kathu, in the Kalahari manganese basin, to Port Elizabeth. The net mass cargo of the test train was 13 104 t and the gross mass weight of the train was 16 640 t, including wagon and cargo.
Mining Weekly reported that the distributed power train made use of the same technology that Transnet deployed on the Sishen–Saldanha iron-ore line used by long 342-wagon trains.
The train test follows the 2011 feasibility study by Transnet’s division, Transnet Freight Rail, on exporting between 18-million tons and 22-million tons of manganese a year.
Several black economic-empowered start-ups, such as Kalahari Resources and Northern Cape Manganese, have come on stream since South Africa’s democracy led to a change in legislation.
These new start-ups are adding to the long-standing position of the BHP Billiton-managed Samancor and Patrice Motsepe-linked Assmang in the rich Kalahari manganese field. The new tonnages that these start-ups produce are putting downward pressure on prices, which were already in the doldrums, Mining Weekly stated in September.
Tenders are being adjudicated and appointment is expected to be made in due course, says Kalagadi Manganese on its website. Black-owned mining company Kalagadi Manganese is also required to design and build a 23-km-long railway siding, which will connect to the main manganese corridor line from Hotazel to Port Elizabeth. Kalagadi Manganese appointed engineering contractor ArcusGibb to undertake the engineering and construction management of the railway project.
Uses In Industry
Manganese is an indispensable element in the manufacturing of steel, making it an essential material for many industries, including construction and transportation. Its use in the steel-making process results in increased strength, resistance and machinability.
In the next 15 to 20 years steel output is expected to be between 2.5-million tons a year and three-million tons a year.
“Manganese makes up about 3% of the crude steel industry content and, therefore, crude steel cannot be produced without manganese. The production of manganese will have to continue if steel is produced in the future,” says Van Niekerk.