Full steam ahead

Baitshepi Sekgweng
MOVING FORWARD: BR upbeat over Mmamabula-Lephalale rail link

BR make Mmamabula-Lephalale rail link inroads

The dream of a new 100km railroad linking the Mmamabula coalfields with the mining town of Lephalale in South Africa’s Limpopo District moved a tiny step closer on Friday.

When finished, the rail link is expected to open up fresh business avenues for Botswana Railways (BR) and contribute positively towards the country’s socio-economic development.

With an annual import/export capacity estimated at 24 million tonnes of goods, it is hoped the project, a combined effort between the governments of Botswana and SA, will greatly ease transportation of commodities such as: coal, fuel, iron ore, copper and soda ash. Currently the existing link is able to move 4.5 million tonnes per annum.

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Speaking at last Friday’s Joint Development Agreement signing ceremony by BR and Transnet Freight Rail, Project Manager, Edwin Machola revealed the initiative is at a bankable feasibility study phase.

Full steam ahead
FULL STEAM AHEAD: BR looking forward to Mmamabula-Lephalale rail link

“To date the reconnaissance survey has been done to get an insight of the entire route in both countries. Currently, the consultant is conducting traffic and commercial survey, route selection and environmental impact assessment scoping simultaneously,” said Machola, adding they plan to have these tasks completed by May.

Unfortunately, he gave no hint at how long construction will take, with Voice Money’s enquiries still to be answered by Tuesday’s deadline. Unconfirmed reports suggest work will officially begin next year, with some putting the cost of construction at P2 billion.

For his part, BR board member, Ogone Mothooagae said the project was ‘gaining traction’.

“The railway industry plays a pivotal role and an economic enabler so it is worth noting that Botswana’s aim is to be an export lead economy and it can achieve that through good transport infrastructure, primarily rail infrastructure. The lack of a sound transport system and rail infrastructure can be a constraint into the mining value chain hence the slow rate of commissioning mines, especially coal mines and the country stands not to benefit from these abundant natural resources,” said Mothooagae.

It is envisioned that the Mmamabula-Lephalale rail-line will prove instrumental to Botswana’s growth and competitiveness.

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“The existence of this rail link will go in a long way in unlocking our full potential as an economy and a gateway into different markets. This will in no doubt be an investment by the government in the rail sector which over the years has been stagnant. The ongoing expansions and setting up of mines in Botswana not only put pressure on the existing rail infrastructure but calls for the need of a shorter and economical exit route from Botswana,” continued Mothooagae.

Should the rail line be successfully erected, it would almost certainly benefit mining operations such as Morupule and Minergy’s Masama coal mines, all situated in the Mmamabula coal fields.

Botswana’s railway network currently stands at 900km with 640km being the mainline while the rest include branches at Sua, Selibe Phikwe, Morupule and Tshele Hills.

Other rail projects in the pipeline are the Kazungula Railway Corridor by Botswana and Zambia which will link the two countries, including a 367km line from Mosetse to Kazungula and then from Kazungula to Livingstone (70km).

Another project is the Trans Kalahari rail line between Botswana and Namibia.

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