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Twin expansion plans for Botswana Railways

Botswana Railways (BR) has revealed plans for two new rail projects designed to handle mining commodities.

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One of the two is the proposed 400 km line from Mosetse in Botswana to Zambia, which would improve access to South African ports for miners in Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo, while providing an alternative to the existing route through Zimbabwe via the Beitbridge crossing.

 

Construction costs are estimated at US$1B and talks with Chinese financial institutions are already underway.

 

The other project is a planned coal link from Botswana’s Mmamabula coal reserves to Lephalale in South Africa’s Limpopo Province. Lephalale lies at the heart of the Waterberg Basin, which has been earmarked to replace falling coal production in parts of the established South African coal industry in Mpumalanga Province.

 

Transnet Freight Rail is in the process of increasing the coal carrying capacity of the railway from Lephalale to Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT), both to enable the development of the Waterberg reserves and to attract Botswanan coal exports.

 

Speaking at a recent conference in Durban, BR CEO Leonard Makwinja said that the line would cost just US$300M to build, as it would run just 120 km.

 

The Government of Botswana has suggested that it would have coal carrying capacity of 15 Mtpa.

 

While access to RBCT for large volumes of Botswanan coal is far from guaranteed, this would be a far cheaper option than the proposed high capacity coal lines to either the Mozambican or Namibian coasts, which carry price tags of about US$10B.

 

The Botswanan utility has now become involved in planning the Trans-Kalahari Railway, which would carry Botswanan coal to the Namibian coast.

 

In early December, the CEO of Namibian rail utility TransNamib, Johny Smith, said that the two governments involved are to hold talks over the project in early 2019, although it is still a long way from being sanctioned. Botswana Railways currently operates a rail network of just 920 km.

 

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