Third port alternative mooted for emerging black coal juniors

31 January 2014

A new port alternative – the third on the table and this time tailored exclusively to emerging black junior coal miners – is under discussion.

The latest was put on the table at the IHS McCloskey South African Coal Exports Conference 2014 on Thursday by RBT-Grindrod, headed by CEO Bongani Biyela.

Grindrod hopes to push Maputo cargo from 18Mt to 50Mt by 2020.

The black-led Grindrod offshoot is proposing a fully mechanised, brownfield port solution, also at Richards Bay, but entirely separate from the existing private Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT), which is also wooing emerging black junior miners with a new 19-million-ton Phase 6 offering.

RBT-Grindrod is proposing an eventual 20-million-ton facility and State rail enterprise Transnet is itself considering the establishment of its own 32-million-ton coal port for juniors, as a potentially expensive greenfield project.
Biyela said that it would only make economic sense for one of the three projects to go ahead.

Key to any new development would be the need for Transnet to increase its rail capacity commensurately to ensure that rail expansion matched port expansion.

RBCT has been progressively creating port capacity far greater than the current rail capacity.

RBCT has increased its capacity from 12-million tons a year when it was launched in 1976 to 91-million tons now – 20-million more than Transnet managed to rail last year.

Current plans are in place to lift capacity further to 110-million tons.

Transnet GM commercial Divyesh Kalan told the conference that the rail enterprise was targeting the railing of 75-million tons this year.

“We need to ramp up to get capacity to the magical number of 91-million tons,” Kalan added.

RBCT GM operations Jabu Mdaki told the conference that RBCT was currently 21.58% black economically empowered (BEE) and would reach the 26% BEE level by April, the official deadline.

Mdaki reported that 23 junior companies currently use RBCT under the Quattro scheme, which catered for four grades of coal.

Overall, the RBCT caters for 38 different grades of coal on 91 stockpiles, which collectively contain 8.2-million tons.

“We’re proposing to take South Africa forward in a tailored form and we need to price the package sensitively,” Biyela said.

RBT-Grindrod is planning inland ports where coal can be delivered for processing prior to being loaded onto trains and taken to the port.

Eskom group executive Kannan Lakmeeharan told the conference that the design of Eskom’s mining development fund was under way to support emerging black junior miners that would supply Eskom with coal in the future.

The scheme would also involve assisting value-adding traders to move up the value chain by, for example, beneficiating and briquetting coal.

Eskom has decided to support juniors that have a 50% plus one share black ownership and Lakmeeharan said the State power utility would soon be issuing requests for proposals for emerging black miners to use Eskom’s three-million-ton South Dunes coal-export allocation at Richards Bay.
By: Martin Creamer

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