Rail excitement

Baitshepi Sekgweng
EXPANDING: Coal exports are poised to take off

Government has reiterated its commitment to improving and expanding Botswana’s limited rail network in order to cash in on coal exports out of the country.

Construction of a better track linking Mmamabula to Lephalale in Limpopo, South Africa, has long been talked about, with the existing rail line’s capacity limited to 4.5 million tonnes per annum.

The recent commissioning of the Motheo Project (see business lead on 1A), and the avalanche of coal this is expected to create, has fueled govt’s ambitions to fast-track the long proposed line.

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The new line would link Botswana coal fields in Mmamabula with South Africa via the shortest possible route, with the current version veering off towards Ramatlabama.

Once complete, the rail line will also prove a better route to seaports in Mozambique as well as Richard Bay for the transportation of coal to European and Asian markets.

Admitting that there are challenges pertaining to insufficient logistics and infrastructure, President Mokgweetsi Masisi called for the issues to be addressed as a matter of urgency in order to facilitate the realization and unlocking of Botswana’s coal potential .

“As the government we are deliberately engaging with our neighboring countries with a view of forging relationships and partnerships which can help in development of transport links to allow for easy export of coal using shorter and less costly routes. We are looking at the Mmamabula/ Lephalale rail link project as a potential rail link enabler to feed the growing coal demand in South Africa and beyond the region,” Masisi declared last week.

If the rail line becomes a success, as well as Morupule Coal Mine (MCM) it will also benefit Minergy’s Masama Coal Mine, located in the Mmamabula coal fields.

Botswana’s current rail infrastructure is limited to a total network of 900km, with 640km being the main line. Branches include: Sua, Selibe Phikwe, Morupule and Tshele.

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