State-owned Transnet and Botswana Railways have resuscitated discussions on the construction of a proposed heavy-haul railway line that will link the two countries to “unlock” Botswana’s estimated 212-billion tons of coal reserves, Transnet announced on Thursday.
Discussions around this project date back over ten years following a concept study that suggested that the most viable option to unlock the coal reserves from Botswana would be through the construction of this railway link.
A number of Transnet railway expansion programmes, which will feed into the construction of the Botswana rail network, are at an execution stage, while others are at advanced planning stages.
This includes the upgrade of the existing railway line from Lephalale, in Limpopo, to Pyramid South, in Pretoria.
This particular programme, which is in construction phase, is a step towards unlocking both Waterberg and Botswana coal, Transnet stated.
Other projects in support of this programme include the upgrade of the electrical infrastructure on the coal heavy-haul system and the construction of the second tunnel at Overvaal, in Mpumalanga, besides others.
The discussions between the two railway companies took place on the sidelines of the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, led by Botswana Railways chairperson Adolph Hirschfeld and his Transnet counterpart Dr Popo Molefe.
Transnet reported that, at the meeting, both parties mutually agreed that the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries would cement collaboration that would see up to 80-million tons of coal a year railed from Botswana for export and domestic use.
Once the MoU is signed by both governments, a joint steering committee and a project team will be established to kickstart the project.
“The railway link from Botswana to South Africa is one of the strategic initiatives that will transform the economy of the Southern African Development Community region. We welcome the partnership with Transnet in making this a reality,” Hirschfeld said.
The link will also open the freight logistics channels through South Africa for exports through Maputo, in Mozambique, as well as the Richards Bay port.
Speaking on behalf of Transnet, Molefe said the group was ready to collaborate with Botswana Railways to make this project a success.
“We will ensure that the South African railway system is capacitated to support both the . . . Waterberg and Botswana coal reserves,” he concluded.