Every Friday morning, SAfm's AMLive's radio anchor Ike Phaahla speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday's At the Coalface transcript:
Phaahla: Good morning to you and thank you for joining us as always. The upgraded port of Durban is now ready to handle far larger vessels?
Creamer: Yes, you know, if the Queen Mary had come in a few months ago, and that is the biggest passenger ship in the world, we wouldn't have been able to fit it into the Durban harbour. But now, this fantastic project that has been going on for over three years has actually been completed.
They've widened that harbour entrance by about 60%. It's gone from 130 m at the narrowest point to 225 m and it's also got a greater depth. The approach depth is now below 19 m and the entrance depth below 18 m and even the inner port is at 16 m. So we can take these big ships again and this has been done a great job ahead of schedule and below budget by the engineers Group 5 helped by the Belgians and also with Japanese finance.
So coming together there its part of the overall plan of Transnet to make things more efficient, to get their productivity up. They've got that target of 8,4% productivity uplift and efficiency uplift, which is part of their quantum leap, and now we see even the big Queen Mary II fitting through into Durban harbour.
Phaahla: South Africa's State-owned rail enterprise Transnet also to spend a whopping R52-billion in the next five years.
Creamer: Yes, the big spenders are around. The State-owned enterprises Eskom and Transnet have got big budgets for over five years.
In fact, if you look at Transnet it is rail, pipelines and ports, it's like R93,4-billion they're planning to spend over the next five years. But, just on rail alone, and that is what we envisage with Transnet, that freight logistics side of it is going to be more than 55% of that budget, up to R52-billion, and that is going to go on taking the age out of that fleet. There's a lot of aging fleet there and they're getting new locomotives coming in.
There will be more than 300 new locomotives to boost their more than 7 000 rail wagons. That is more than 10% of their fleet and, on the local side, up to 15%. So, over five years we're going to see a transformed rail freight industry and this will take a lot of effect on those very busy lines that make a lot of money, the coal line, the iron-ore line, which might also now become a manganese line and the general freight line.
We know that the miners sat in the Drakensberg this week, saying: "Look, we've got to do something about our mining industry. We can't lose out. It's no good us digging stuff out of the ground and then it sits there, it can't get to the ports, it can't get to markets."
So this is a big part of it, these commodity lines, a lot of money is going to go into that but, as Transnet has said, they can only go to a certain point. Eighty-one-million tons is their capacity, from this budget, on the coal line and on the iron-ore line up to 60-million tons from the 43-million tons and they are hoping to get manganese up to 14% and perhaps also down the Saldana line and then they would like to involve the private sector as well.
Phaala: And, finally, a new Western Cape wind farm is ready to go ahead?
Creamer: Yes, we're hearing about these wind farms but none of them really are producing except for Darling which was a private sector one in Darling in the Cape and that is a moderately sized one but it did go ahead with private sector funds helped by the Danes and various European bodies. But now we're seeing private sector companies coming in, getting the funding and Hopefield in the Western Cape 100 km north-west of Cape Town they've got this wind farm plan which has reached bankable feasibility stage. That means it can be funded, they've got the funders in they've got everything ready, all they need now is for Eskom to give them that power price agreement.
And we know a lot of people are waiting for that power price agreement from Eskom also in the renewable energy side but they're quite happy with the tariff that the regulator has given them: R1,25/kWh which is quite a generous thing you can see people coming on wind farms so wind is in the air, not only in South Africa but all over the world and perhaps in Africa we're far behind, you know, if you look at Egypt way ahead of us, but they're ready to come in with this Hopefield project and of course they'll join others, like even the coal-miner, the black-owned coal miner Exxaro ready to do wind farms in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape this particular one at Hopefield about 100 MW that seems to be the fashion these days to go for 100 MW. Exxaro also looking for 100 MW on the western Cape at Brand-se-baai. But of course, it's small compared to the big needs of South Africa so we're still going to have to have coal we're obviously also going to have to have nuclear because that is carbon-free electricity but so is wind power carbon free electricity and that's what people are going for.
Phaahla: Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he'll be back with us at the same time next week.