SADC Pins Hopes on New Regional Railway

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Morupule Colliery Mine in Botswana, which has been encountering problems with transporting its product to outside markets, is pinning its hopes on the planned electric railway line to be constructed by a consortium of companies that includes Namibian Falcon Resources Holdings. Being a land-locked country, Botswana finds it difficult to place its coal on the market, where it would compete with the product from South Africa, which has its own ports. In the next 10 to 20 years, the centre of coal gravity will shift from South Africa to Botswana, which has 212 billion tonnes of coal. Once the railway is built, it will facilitate exports to other countries such as in Europe, and China and India where the market still exists for coal, said Cletus Tangane, Mine Manager of Morupule Colliery Limited yesterday from Botswana. Debtswana Diamond Company owns the Morupule Colliery. “If the Trans Kalahari Railway could be developed, we could use the Walvis Bay Harbour for our exports,” he said. Although there is an alternative, Richards Bay in the Eastern Cape in South Africa, it is far away. Three South African companies, namely Sekunjalo, Kumba Resources, and Siemens Transportation Systems and one Canadian company, Energem Resources have teamed up with Namibia Falcon Resources to form Falcon Resources Holdings to construct an electrified heavy haul railway line and to develop a deep water harbour at Shearwater Bay. The companies have formed a consortium, to construct a US$1-billion Trans Kalahari Railway line linking Morupule and Shearwater Bay, 30 km south of LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz. The railway line, said Tangane, would open up traffic, as it will join the east coast and west coast of Africa. Tangane said the mine management have been in consultation with Falcon Resources mainly for the use of the railway for coal exports, taking into consideration that one of the projects will be a deep-water harbour. President Hifikepunye Pohamba and his Botswana counterpart, Festus Mogae a few weeks ago discussed the need to construct a railway line between the two countries. Tangane also mentioned that Botswana’s Assistant Finance Minister recently signed a loan agreement with the Chinese government, which is interested in the project. Meanwhile, the Falcon Resources Holdings will next week make a final submission to the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication for presentation to Cabinet for the two countries, Namibia and Botswana, to amend the Trans Kalahari Memorandum of Understanding for it to include a railway line. The railway line will start from Morupule Colliery in north east central of Botswana and pass through Namibia’s new coalmine situated 60 km south of Aranos and end up at the natural harbour, Shearwater Bay. The 1 600-km long line over the Kalahari will address import and export constraints of products and minerals from Namibia’s hinterland countries, namely Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It will also give rail transportation to other provinces of South Africa, namely Limpopo, Gauteng and Northern Cape. In Botswana, the railroad will connect Palapye, which is directly linked with Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, through Francistown in the north and with Mafikeng in South Africa through Lo-batse. The railway line will come through Morupule and Kang in Botswana, and Mariental, Maltahohe and Aus and end at the deep-water harbour. It is envisaged that the new railway line will greatly increase the competitiveness of goods produced in SADC countries for distribution to regional and international markets. The port will provide the countries with shorter distances for cargo destined to the Americas and Europe, while providing access to private company importers and exporters and mining houses, and guaranteeing access to mining companies of resource cargo such as copper, zinc, coal, iron ore, manganese and crude and refined oil products.