JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – South African port operator Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) has again confirmed that it will relocate the current export manganese facility from Port Elizabeth to a new two-berth facility at the Port of Ngqura by 2015/16, which it says will also facilitate an expansion of South Africa’s manganese export capacity.
The project is expected to increase manganese export volumes from the current 5.5-million tons a year to 12-million tons a year by 2016/17 and formed part of Transnet’s R300-billion investment programme for the coming seven years, with R33-billion having been set aside for the expansion and improvement of TPT’s bulk and container terminals.
Transnet also announced last month that it would direct all future manganese exports through the new R10-billion Port of Ngqura, rather than through Saldanha Bay, despite some manganese exporters still arguing that Saldanha would offer a more cost-effective route to market.
Speaking at the official launch of the country’s new deep-water port, President Jacob Zuma stated that Transnet was poised to help integrate the Eastern Cape into South Africa’s key resources sector, which would incorporate the province into the mainstream economy of the country.
The State-owned logistics group’s investment programme fell under its Market Demand Strategy (MDS) that was unveiled by Zuma in his infrastructure-heavy State of the Nation address to Parliament in February.
In the National Treasury’s Budget Review, released together with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s 2012 Budget, it was indicated that R18-billion could be spent on rail and port terminal projects to raise South Africa’s manganese export capacity.
TPT’s capital investment plan also included the expansion of the iron-ore facility in Saldanha, the acquisition of new mobile equipment, quayside equipment and weighbridges for the ageing Richards Bay bulk terminal, as well as to create additional capacity at Richards Bay by 2019.
“These investments into South Africa’s commercial port operations will continue to provide a springboard for growth. We will implement specific initiatives to grow volumes and use capacity as it comes on stream, while improving operational efficiencies and growing personnel, thus ensuring the success of the MDS,” TPT CE Karl Socikwa commented.
Meanwhile, Gabon Mines Minister Regis Immongault told the Australia Africa Business Council this week that the country would overtake South Africa as the world’s largest manganese producer by 2015, when it would produce about 5.7-million tons of manganese a year.
He said diversified miner BHP Billiton could soon finalise a mining convention with the Gabonese government for the development of a 300 000 t/y manganese operation.