Another private railway for Zambia
Lusaka – Zambia may soon have another private railway line that would link the country with Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from Chingola in northern region, after North Western Railway and South Africa’s Grindrod Limited signed a US$1 billion joint venture agreement to construct a more than 580km rail link.
The new railway line, whose construction is expected to start this quarter, marks a milestone in Zambia’s contribution to infrastructure development, as espoused by the SADC regional leadership.
Once completed, the railway line is expected to boost mines in north-western Zambia, where vast deposits of copper and other minerals, including gold, have been discovered and are being tapped to full potential.
Speaking during the recent mining indaba in DRC, North Western Railway’s managing director and Chairperson Enoch Kavindele revealed that funds for the railway line have been secured and that work would start soon to ensure the project is completed in good time.
Kavindele said they seek to expedite the construction and ensure that mines in the north-western part of the country and service providers have easy links to the sea and ports for exports.
Lumwana mine, a unit of Barrick Gold and Kansanshi Copper Mine, a subsidiary of First Quantum Minerals Limited, are some of the mining companies expected to benefit from the new railway line.
The railway project when completed, will link Zambia with Angola up to the port of Jimbe. The first 290km phase of the line will run from Chingola to the Kansanshi, Lumwana and Kalumbila mines, at an estimated capital cost of about US$489 million.
The second phase, that will cost US$500m, will connect with the Benguela railway line on the Zambia-Angola border near Jimbe and will open a direct corridor to Lobito.
This, if achieved, will allow landlocked Zambia to import oil directly from Angola and other nearby sources and will stimulate further mining activities in the north western and copperbelt regions.
“The first locomotives will be ready to carry copper concentrate in 18 months,” Kavindele recently told Southern Times.
Dave Rennie, the chief executive of the Grindrod Freight Services division, was hopeful the finalisation of the project will allow his company to extract synergies from its existing investments in the north-south rail corridor and its port operations in Maputo, Richards Bay and Durban.
James Holley, the divisional chief executive of Grindrod Rail, says the division had spent the past few years developing its rail capabilities and growing its capacity to participate in the growth of Africa’s rail sector.
Grindrod Group of Companies has various subsidiaries, joint venture and associated companies in 37 countries worldwide with a labour force of over 7 000.
The rail line venture will further alleviate pressure exerted on the road infrastructure when transporting heavy loads for the mines and other industries in the region. This wear and tear forced the government to enact a law that came into effect on November 1, 2013, which introduced a toll-road system compelling all road users to pay a fee for road maintenance similar to other Southern African states.