New coal port mooted

2012-11-26 00:00

RICHARDS Bay businesses seem to have been caught off guard by the Transnet plan to build its own coal terminal “to break the export stranglehold of major miners”.

Sudesh Maharaj, programme director for Trans- net’s Richards Bay port expansion projects, was reported as saying late last week: “Transnet is busy investigating an open-access coal terminal for the unlocking of emerging or junior miners in the coal industry.

“Smaller miners can’t mine until there is export capacity,” Maharaj said on the sidelines of the African Ports and Maritime Conference 2012 held in Cape Town last week.

The existing Richards Bay coal terminal (RBCT), the world’s largest coal export facility, handles output from major mining companies Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Xstrata, Exxaro and Glencore.

When approached on Friday for comment, both the RBCT and BHP Billiton seemed unaware of the Transnet plan.

BHP Billiton, which owns the Hillside smelter in Richards Bay, was asked if there was a “stranglehold” on the port by big players, and if it was difficult for would-be exporters to acquire capacity.

The company was also asked whether they thought there was room for another coal terminal in Richards Bay.

BHP Billiton communications manager Kesagee Nayager said: “Transnet and RBCT may be better placed to respond to the questions posed”.

RBCT, which works half days on Friday, had not devised a response at the time of going to press.

Maharaj told Reuters news agency that Transnet planned to build a terminal capable of exporting 14 million tonnes a year, which could be expanded to 32 million tonnes.

The facility could begin exporting by mid-2020 if approved by the Transnet board and would be able to stockpile four to eight grades of coal.

“It has started as being a Transnet-driven initiative, and once marine infrastructure is in place, a private operator may be sought through the company’s procurement processes,” Maharaj explained.

He said the new coal terminal would be developed parallel to expanding the port’s general freight terminals.

These are operating at near full capacity at 24 million tonnes a year.

Besides coal, Richards Bay also handles liquids and dry bulk as well as minerals including chrome, ferrochrome, magnetite and ferromanganese and other break-bulk commodities.

South Africa exported 5,56 million tonnes of coal from RBCT in October, slightly up from the previous month.

• zulunews4@feveronline.co.za

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