South Africa’s Department of Minerals and Energy has called for State-owned rail utility Spoornet to come to the party after it became clear on Thursday that there would be enough coal to fill the Richard Bay Coal Terminal’s (RBCT’s) expanded 91-million ton capacity, to come on line in 2009.
RBCT announced on the same day that 26 firms had applied for nearly 100-million tons expansion, signifying the significant demand for coal export capacity.
Spoornet had said in March that it had been in talks with the coal-mining industry since 2006 on its capital expansion programme at RBCT, and the rail utility anticipated matching its rail capacity expansion to coal export demand.
Spoornet planned to spend R4,9-billion on the coal corridor, including locomotives, wagons and infrastructure, and had already ordered 110 electric locomotives for the coal line, which would be delivered next year.
“Expenditure of this magnitude requires binding commitments from our customers, which are still keenly awaited, and will probably be finalised after June 2007, when RBCT announces the additional mining companies that will have an uptake of coal to be railed to the port,” spokesperson John Dludlu said last month. “All studies related to capacity up to 92-million tons a year have been completed by us.”
“They said that they would proceed to put investment where they need to,” DME chief mineral economist Xavier Prevost said on Thursday, in an interview with Mining Weekly Online at the Junior Coal Mining Ventures conference, in Johannesburg.
He said that Spoornet was waiting for assurances from the coal industry that expanded rail capacity would be taken up.
“Now they are going to see in black and white,” Prevost stated. “We will be waiting for them to reply.”
Asked if the DME would like Spoornet to meet RBCT’s 91-million tons a year capacity by 2009, he replied “of course”.
Further, Prevost indicated that the DME wished for all junior BEE miners to have access to the export market.
“We don’t want just 91-million tons, we would like for all junior BEE companies to have access to the port,” he stated.
However, Prevost was upbeat on the rail utility, which is owned by Transnet.
“Spoornet is coming along,” Prevost noted.
He indicated that RBCT had received enough applications for 100-million tons a year’s worth of allotment, where the expansion was only up to 91-million tons a year.
Prevost went on to say that RBCT was now considering a further expansion.
Asked when this might come on line, he replied “I would guess another 10 years time before full implementation.”
RBCT hopeful of industry matching expansion
RBCT chairperson Khuseni Dlamini said in April that RBCT, which was the single largest coal terminal in the world, held frequent talks with Spoornet, and remained hopeful that “the whole industry would be as positive as RBCT” about the expansion.
He said that, thus far, the terminal, which is owned by seven major coal exporters, although this is set to change, had been pleasantly surprised by the market’s response to the phase five expansion, and that he was confident that there would be enough demand to fill the new capacity.
Of the 19-million tons a year added, four-million tons a year would be made available to emerging BEE exporters.
Export hopefuls, that make up the South Dunes Coal Terminal, which also embrace significant BEE representation, will take up six-million tons, while some nine-million tons has been opened for tender.