Mozambique plans more infrastructure to benefit coal miners and others

17th April 2015 By: Keith Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The Mozambique government has confirmed its plan to construct a new port and railway for the export of coal from the Moatize coal basin in the inland Tete province. This was done by Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario when he presented the government’s five-year programme (2015–2019) to the Assembly of the Republic, the country’s unicameral Parliament, on April 8.

The site of the new port is the coastal town of Macuse, in Zambezia province. Macuse lies north-east of, and close to, the port city of Quelimane, which is also the capital of Zambezia. (Quelimane is not a coastal town, but lies on the Bons Sinais river, some 25 km from the sea, which would suggest it would not be a suitable place from which to export coal.) The railway which will link the new harbour to the coalfields will run for some 525 km. In February, it was reported it would be built and operated by a private company. It was also then reported that the new line would cost $3.5-billion.

However, the viability of the new railway and port was dependent on the amount of coal that would be exported, reported the Mozambique news agency AIM. And that, in turn, will depend on the coal prices in the international markets which, at the moment, are weak. (Perhaps also relevant to mining, in general, is that it is also planned to increase the proportion of the country’s national and regional roads that are in ‘reasonable’ or ‘good’ condition from the current 68% to 75%.)

Rosario further reaffirmed plans to build a second hydroelectric power station at the Cahora Bassa dam and construct two new dams for hydroelectric power at Mpanda Nkua and Boroma. All three locations are in Tete province and all are on the Zambesi river. (Increased power for the province and country would probably benefit the coal miners, with more reliable and cheaper power to their operations.) However, these projects can go ahead only if there are customers willing to commit to buying the electricity.

More generally, the government is targeting an annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of between 7% and 8% between now and 2019, while keeping inflation under 10% and having a budget deficit (before grants) of less than 22% of GDP. Further, it aims to increase the contribution of manufacturing to GDP from the present 11% to 21% by 2019.

Maputo also hopes to create 300 000 jobs a year over the next five years. To this end, more than 15 000 apprenticeships will be awarded each year. However, AIM points out that this will not be enough to meet the demands of the growing population: more than 500 000 Mozambicans turn 18 every year. Rosario described the objectives of the five-year programme as being “to improve the living conditions of the Mozambican people by increasing employment, production and competitiveness, creating wealth and generating balanced and inclusive development in an environment of peace, security, harmony, solidarity, justice and cohesion among Mozambicans”.

Separately, Ministry of Transport and Communications Permanent Secretary Pedro Inglês reported, on the same day, that the government expected full operations to start soon on the Tete to Nacala railway line (through Malawi). This will be a major route for the export of coal from the Moatize district through the Nacala port to the wider world. Currently, the only route available is the Sena line from Tete to the port city of Beira. A branch line of the Nacala railway, from the junction at Cuamba to the Niassa province capital of Lichinga, will also soon complete its refurbishment and return to operation.