Transnet saves with mega­train

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Al­lan Sec­combe Re­sources Writer sec­combea@busi­nesslive.co.za

Transnet Freight Rail saved more than R1bn by suc­cess­fully test­ing the world’s long­est train. The in­ten­tion is to serve grow­ing de­mand from SAs ’ man­ganese min­ers for ac­cess to ex­port mar­kets for the key steel in­gre­di­ent, adding 1-mil­lion tons of ex­tra ca­pac­ity to its net­work.

Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) saved more than R1bn by suc­cess­fully test­ing the world’s long­est train.

The in­ten­tion is to serve grow­ing de­mand from SA’s man­ganese min­ers for ac­cess to ex­port mar­kets for the key steel in­gre­di­ent, adding 1-mil­lion tons of ex­tra ca­pac­ity to its net­work.

SA has the world’s largest man­ganese de­posits and is a lead­ing player in sup­ply­ing the min­eral to steel mills, but min­ing firms have long com­plained about lim­ited rail ca­pac­ity cre­at­ing bot­tle­necks for ex­ports.

Transnet had looked at ex­pand­ing ca­pac­ity on the line be­tween Ho­tazel and Port El­iz­a­beth and in­tro­duc­ing new rolling stock in an ex­pen­sive pro­gramme. The use of the Sishento-Sal­danha line with a mega­train meant a 90% sav­ing worth more than R1bn.

The Septem­ber test with 375 wag­ons in a 4km-long train proved the con­cept that TFR could haul man­ganese in this configuration, top­ping the long­est pro­duc­tion train in the world, the 342-wagon iron-ore trains run­ning on the same 861km Sishen-to-Sal­danha line.

A train with this many wag­ons would haul 22,500 tons of man­ganese ore and give TFR an ex­tra 1-mil­lion tons a year of ca­pac­ity, run­ning 44 loads to Sal­danha, which is pri­mar­ily an iron-ore ex­port fa­cil­ity.

“The project will max­imise the man­ganese vol­umes railed be­tween the mines in Ho­tazel via Sishen to Sal­danha,” said TFR COO Lloyd To­bias.

The next step is bring­ing the train into op­er­a­tion and se­cur­ing man­ganese ore to fill it now that the test work has proved suc­cess­ful, said Rus­sell Baatjies, TFR’s GM of the iron ore and man­ganese busi­ness unit. The train is “meant to meet the needs of man­ganese cus­tomers within the Ho­tazel area and the emerg­ing min­ers. This phase will in­clude fur­ther cus­tomer en­gage­ments and of­fi­cial launch of the train,” he said.

Transnet is us­ing in­no­va­tive ways to step up its share of man­ganese mov­ing out of the North­ern Cape to off­shore mar­kets and wants to cap­ture the full 14-mil­lion tons trans­ported to the coast ev­ery year, Gert de Beer, the paras­tatal’s chief busi­ness de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, told Busi­ness Day in July.

Transnet has upped its man­ganese ca­pac­ity to 12.8-mil­lion tons a year from 5-mil­lion tons a year in 2012 and is us­ing al­most all of SA’s ports served by its rail net­work, but the fo­cus is on the Port El­iz­a­beth and Sal­danha har­bours, which are both at the end of heavy-haul lines, he said.

Transnet has signed longterm agree­ments with four man­ganese com­pa­nies. They are Ass­mang — the com­pany jointly owned by African Rain­bow Min­er­als and As­sore — South32, Tshipi — owned by Aus­tralia’s Jupiter Mines — and PMG Min­ing.

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