CAPE TOWN (miningweekly.com) – Transnet was able to unlock 23-million tons of coal a year from South Africa’s emerging Waterberg coalfield, GM Divyesh Kalan said on Wednesday.
Kalan told the IHS McCloskey South African Coal Exports Conference in Cape Town that the timeline for that unlocking of coal from the Waterberg was 2016/17.
An additional estimated 15-million tons of rail capacity would also be made available on the coal line to Richards Bay from 2014/15 as a result of diverting general freight through the new Swazi link that is to be built.
Kalan said that the agreement to divert coal-line-using general freight had accelerated Transnet’s potential of going beyond the 91-million tons a year that the private-sector-operated Richards Bay Coal Terminal is currently able to export.
“With the Swazi link, we’re very confident that we can unlock 91-million tons,” he commented.
The infrastructure being developed would also need to accommodate imports and local demand.
Transnet would need to ensure that rolling stock became available to evacuate coal from the long-standing Mpumalanga coalfields and the emerging field in Limpopo province.
Transnet was looking to Waterberg coal miners signing long-term rail contracts in order to underpin the investment that Transnet would be required to make off its own balance sheet.
Any funding shortfall thereafter would be filled by going to the market to raise capital or through public-private partnerships.
The coal-mining industry, he said, was already aware that Transnet had embraced the concept of public sector participation (PSP).
“It’s the how, what and where we do PSPs that has yet to be crafted,” Kalan added.
While current coal availability for the coal line to Richards Bay had become a challenge in that miners were not matching the rail capacity available to them, Transnet had validated the coal resources in the ground as part of its 81-million tons study.
The State-owned enterprise, Kalan said, had moved far closer to the industry as part of a collaborative planning process for the infrastructure upgrade.
Kalan continued to have confidence that coal would be available to be transported on the line in the long term.
“We need to look at our process and industry’s plans to ensure that we don’t have interim capacity that’s stranded or wasteful,” he said.