Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 31 May 2010 – State-owned rail, ports and pipeline operator Transnet Limited says it may take up to three months to restore rail freight services to levels seen before the strike that has caused bottlenecks in the transport of iron ore and coal exports.
South Africa’s railways and ports have been paralysed by the three-week strike that ended last Thursday, and Transnet said it would take weeks to clear the backlogs at ports. It added that it would take even longer to get the rail freight unit operating at levels seen before the strike.
“To get our rail systems operating at the tempo that we did before the strike would take us two to three months because of the imbalances in our fleet,” Transnet HR executive Pradeep Maharaj told Reuters.
South Africa is a major exporter of coal to power stations in Europe and Asia. Coal exporters have blamed Transnet in the past for failing to rail enough coal to the terminal due to bottlenecks on the rail line and an ageing fleet.
South Africa exported 61 million tonnes of coal last year and Transnet said it could rail up to 65 to 70 million tonnes this year, but after the strike the industry said the target was too ambitious and Transnet’s predictions might even make 60 million tonnes unlikely.
Companies in the coal sector include Anglo American, Xstrata, Optimum Coal and Exxaro.
South Africa is also home to Kumba Iron Ore, the world’s 10th largest producer of the steel-making ingredient and a unit of Anglo, and any interruptions on the rail line could impact its exports.
Transnet said in March it would transport 44.6 million tonnes of iron ore in its financial year to end March 2010, up from 36.8 million the previous year, and that it planned to raise that figure by 10% in the present 12-month period.