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The train is coming baby, the train is coming now…

Transnet Freight Rail successfully tests its manganese rail movement configuration

South Africa is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of mineral resources.. SA is reported to be home to around 53 different minerals, employing around 460,000+ people across 1700+ operating mines and has a huge potential with respect to its mineral reserves, exploration and production..

As per reports, SA ranks first in the quantity of world reserves of chrome ore, fluorspar, manganese ore, platinum group metals and zirconium..

South Africa’s manganese rich Kalahari Basin, in the country’s Northern Cape, reportedly holds about 80% of the world’s manganese ore..

Manganese is a metal with important industrial uses, especially in the steel industry as it improves the strength of steel and can also be added to aluminium.. High-rise buildings and major infrastructure, such as hospitals, office towers and bridges, use steel that contains manganese..

These deposits have made SA a leading player in the supply of this key ingredient.. Majority of these resources are moved from the mines to the ports via the rail network operated by Transnet Freight Rail (TFR)..

Transnet Freight Rail is the largest division of Transnet Limited, a public company with South African government as its sole shareholder.. TFR is considered to be a world class heavy haul freight rail company that specialises in the transportation of freight..

However the mineral industry and particularly the Manganese sector faces several bottlenecks for exports due to the limited rail capacity available for the movement of the goods to the ports, a fact that has been highlighted for the past several years by mining companies in this sector..

As per Lloyd Tobias, TFR’s chief operating officer, Transnet was keen to address these concerns and exploit its existing infrastructure and rolling stock combined with enhanced technology to meet demands from the sector..

As part of this initiative, Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) recently successfully tested the world’s longest train in order to capitalise on the growing demand from SA’s manganese miners for access to export markets around the globe..

The test involving 375 wagons in a 4km-long train proved the concept that TFR could haul manganese in this configuration, topping the longest production train in the world, the 342-wagon iron ore trains running on the same 861km-long Sishen-to-Saldanha line..

A train with this capacity can haul 22,500 tonnes of manganese ore from the mines to the ports, giving TFR an extra 1-million tonnes a year of capacity..

transnet freight rail manganese train - shipping and freight resource

According to Tobias,

“The project will maximise the manganese volumes railed between the mines in Hotazel via Sishen to Saldanha. This will be achieved by optimising the use of existing assets, locomotives and wagons, within the installed infrastructure constraints, doing more with what is currently available”..

TFR has greatly improved its capacity from 5 million tonnes a year in 2012 to 12.8 million tonnes a year.. TFR is reported to be targeting the balance 1.2 million tonnes moving by road..

Using such innovations as this 375 wagon train, Transnet aims to step up its Manganese movements to export markets around the world and capture the full 14-million tonnes transported to the coastal ports of Port Elizabeth and Saldanha Bay every year..

TFR already has long-term agreements with the Manganese majors such as Assmang, South32, Tshipi and PMG Mining and is aiming to sign up the remaining 5 of the 9 manganese companies that are on its sights..

Assmang is jointly owned by African Rainbow Minerals and Assore while Tshipi is owned by Australia’s Jupiter Mines..

TFR has also increased the use of container loading facilities at Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal, where bulk manganese ore is loaded into special into top-opening containers and railed to Durban or Richards Bay for loading on bulk ships..

Already across the world, rail freight is evolving quite rapidly on the container side and such innovations may spur more growth and ideas within the African continent on the bulk side..





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  1. Thanks this is very interesting.
    Looks like they will load both manganese and iron ore at Saldanha so wonder what will happen the idea of developing Port Nolloth as a port to cater for manganese.
    Alos a pity we have as yet managed to beneficiate this product.Anyhow many thanks at least we moving forward


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