Experts to Flesh Out New Railroad

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Falcon Resource Holdings and its international experts will meet early next month in Windhoek to discuss the implementation of the planned electric railway line linking Botswana and Namibia. The planning session will bring together experts in port development, mining, power stations and railways lines, among others, to set up time-frames for the project to start. The Trans Kalahari Railway project is being undertaken by a consortium of companies from Namibia, Botswana and Canada, namely, Sekunjalo, Kumba Resources, Siemens Transportation Systems from South Africa and a Canadian company, Energem Resources, which have teamed up to form Falcon Resource Holdings to construct the railway line and harbour at Shearwater Bay, 30 km south of LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz. Executive Chairman of Falcon Resource Holdings, Mihe Gaomab I told New Era yesterday the project to construct a 1 600-km line from Morepule Colliery in east-central Botswana, which will pass through Namibia’s new coal mine south of Aranos, was going ahead as planned. Having provisionally been allocated land by the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement, the rest of the programmes to be undertaken such as a feasibility study would now go ahead after the planning session. Gaomab I said international financiers are ready to fund the US$1-billion project, but local banks have also shown interest in co-financing some aspects of the project. The four companies remain the principle partners in the project although, Gaomab I said, others may want to have a stake in the company at a later date. The three countries involved in the Trans Kalahari Corridor – Namibia, Botswana and South Africa – are also working towards amending the memorandum of understanding for the corridor to include the railway line. At present, the Trans Kalahari Corridor consists of a road linking South Africa’s Gauteng Province with Namibia by way of Botswana, which saves a considerable distance on the alternative long-established road that goes via Kimberley and Upington to the south. Already the Morepule Colliery mine in Botswana is pinning its hopes on the planned railway line to export its coal to other countries such as China, Europe and India, where the market still exists for coal. Botswana has 212 billion tonnes of coal and has been having difficulties to compete with its coal-producing counterparts such as South Africa due to lack of own ports. The executive chairman said Botswana needs a railway line and a harbour to export the majority of its coal because it is a landlocked country. Even though there is an alternative route through Richards Bay in South Africa, it is not only far away but also so congested that countries need concessions to have their goods transported through the harbour. In an earlier interview, the mine manager at Morepule Colliery, Cletus Tangane, told New Era that if the Trans Kalahari railway line is developed, the mine could use the Walvis Bay harbour for its exports. He said the mine was in consultation with Falcon Resources Holdings to use the line for coal exports because one of the projects would be a harbour. It is envisaged that the railway line through the Kalahari will address the imports and exports constraints of products and minerals from countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while giving rail transportation to South Africa’s provinces, namely, Limpopo, Gauteng and the Northern Cape. While guaranteeing access of mining companies of resource cargo such as copper, zinc, coal, iron ore, manganese, crude and refined oil products, the port will also provide shorter distances for cargo destined for the Americas and Europe. The line will connect Palapye, which is directly linked with Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, through Francistown with Mafikeng in South Africa and through Lobatse. In Namibia, it will come from Morepule and Kang in Botswana and Mariental, MaltahÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶he and Aus and end up at Shearwater Harbour.