Tete — Trains laden with coal will soon be travelling regularly between Moatize, in the western Mozambican province of Tete, and the northern port of Nacala-a-Velha, the Tete Provincial Director of Transport and Communications, Romeu Sandoca, has assured AIM.
Sandoca said that everything is ready for the line to move the Tete coal to the new coal terminal built at Nacala-a-Velha. This port was built from scratch, and faces the existing Nacala port across a sheltered bay, which is regarded as one of the best deep water ports on the east African coast.
The railway has been built across southern Malawi, as an alternative to the Sena line from Moatize to the central port of Beira, which cannot handle the huge amounts of coal expected to be exported from Tete in the medium term.
The line to Nacala-a-Velha is 902 kilometres long, and was financed by the Brazilian mining giant Vale, which owns an open cast coal mine at Moatize. The original, optimistic forecast was that the line would be ready by late 2014.
The projections were for about 20 coal trains a day. This will require a fleet of 100 locomotives and 2,700 wagons. 12 ships a month are expected to call at the coal terminal.
But the opening of the new line was repeatedly delayed - particularly because of the damage done by the floods that hit northern Mozambique in January and February 2015. However, Sandoca insists that everything is now ready, and the regular transport of coal between Moatize and Nacala-a-Velha will begin this month.
The first shipment of coal reached Nacala-a-Velha in November - that was when the line was fully inspected and tested, and shown to be fit for its intended purpose. Sandoca said the test run was carried out by four locomotives carrying 120 wagons of coal.
The line will be used, not only by Vale, but by other mining companies based in Tete, and who currently use the Sena line. In addition to Vale, two other companies, both Indian, are exporting Tete coal. They are International Coal Ventures (ICVL, which bought the coal assets formerly held by the Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto), and Jindal Africa.
Nacala-a-Velha can export up to 18 million tonnes of coal a year - which is more than the current production of all three mining companies combined.