RICHARDS BAY (miningweekly.com) – South Africa’s Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) has reported a decline in coal exports for the second consecutive year.
The private-sector-owned terminal, which works hand in glove with the State-owned Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) and Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), exported 72.15-million tonnes (Mt) of coal in 2019, 1.32 Mt short of 2018’s 73.47 Mt, which was itself 4.1% less than 2017’s record coal exportation year.
Asia was again the biggest export destination by far, with India and Pakistan together absorbing 91% of total exports, up on last year’s 81.6%.
India, as the biggest single country recipient, imported 41.6 Mt, up on 2018’s 35.29 Mt, followed by Pakistan’s 12.05 Mt (9.37 Mt in 2018).
The percentage to Europe fell to 3% (2.24 Mt) from 10.1% in 2018, and Africa to 6% (4.23 Mt) from 8% in 2018.
Netherlands took 0.76 Mt, compared with 3.14 Mt in 2018, and Spain 0.65 Mt compared with 1.38 Mt in 2018.
Of the African countries, 0.67 Mt was exported to Djibouti and 0.6 Mt to Mauritius.
“It’s been a very tough year,” RBCT chairperson Nosipho Siwisa-Damasane told the media conference attended by Mining Weekly.
RBCT CEO Alan Waller said the multi-award-winning terminal had again set 77 Mt as the coal export target for 2020, the same as in 2019. RBCT’s export record of 76.47 Mt was set in 2017.
The terminal received 25 trains a day in 2019, compared with 27 a day in 2018 and a capacity to receive 32 a day as part of its partnership with TFR, which is continues to work very well.
Eight hundred and eighty six vessels were loaded in 2019, three more than in 2018, but well below the 907 of 2017.
Weather, which cut 39 days out of the schedule compared with 36 in 2018, has become an ongoing challenge, prompting RBCT and the TNPA to consider a series of initiatives to lessen its impact.
“Definitely, the weather patterns are getting worse,” said Waller.
The equipment replacement programme has been highly successful, with the first phase's brand new stacker reclaimers and shiploaders underpinning turnaround time consistency.
The two rail-mounted stacker reclaimers operate at a rate of 6 000 t/h and the two rail-mounted shiploaders at a rate of 10 000 t/h.
The stackers allocate the coal to 91 stockpiles and reclaimers extract 42 different grades of coal from the stockpiles. The shiploaders then load the coal on to waiting vessels.
The terminal has a capacity to export 91-million tonnes of coal a year. The 2.2 km, six-berth quay has four ship loaders and a stockyard that can hold 8.2-million tonnes of coal.
RBCT is owned by Anglo Operations, ARM Coal, South32 Coal, Exxaro, Glencore Operations, Kangra Coal, Koornfontein Mines, Optimum Coal Terminal, Sasol Mining, South Dunes Coal Terminal, South African Coal Mine Holdings, Tumelo Coal Mines and Umcebo Mining, with Optimum Coal and Koornfontein in business rescue.
The four-million tonnes of terminal capacity allocated to junior mining companies is still very far from taken up.
Black women own 5.26% of RBCT, which is a 29.54% black-owned terminal, through which 98% of South Africa's coal exports pass and to which 68 of South Africa's coal mines, some further than 1 000 km away, supplied coal in 2019.
RBCT's three-year wage agreement with the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union extends to 2022.