19 February 2013

Mozambique: Vale Declares "force Majeure" in Tete

Maputo — The Brazilian mining company Vale has declared a situation of “force majeure” in Mozambique’s Tete province, making it impossible to honour its coal export contracts.

A Vale press release issued on Tuesday said that the party was contacting its various clients informing them that the torrential rains in central Mozambique have made it impossible to send coal trains from its mine in Moatize district to the port of Beira.

The heavy rains since the beginning of February “have created operational difficulties for the Sena railway line, with an impact on the transport of coal”, said the release. So far the amount of coking coal that Vale has been unable to send to Beira amounts to around quarter of a million tonnes.

The owner of the line, the Mozambican port and rail company CFM, “is taking all the necessary measures to re-establish rail traffic, and the situation should be normalized by the end of the month”, the company says.

The interruption to traffic began on 11 February, because flooding on the Zambezi river has washed away ballast on part of the line between the Messito and Doa rail stations in Tete.

This was a blow to both the major mining concerns that depend on the Sena line, Vale and Rio Tinto. Normally there is an average of 12 trains a day along the line.

The interruption of rail traffic demonstrates how fragile the mining logistics are. In theory, the Sena line, after upgrading that is currently under way, should be able to handle over six million tonnes of cargo a year, but the mining companies’ forecasts are for exports on a much larger scale.

Vale hopes to free itself from dependence on the Sena line by building a new railway across southern Malawi that will connect with Mozambique’s existing northern line, and carry the coal to the port of Nacala.

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