Zambia: Inter-country rail link works on the cards

By Nawa Mutumweno – Construction of a railway line connecting Botswana’s Mmamabula coal field with the Namibian port of Walvis Bay to cost up to $9 billion is expected to commence in eighteen months.

According to Namibia’s director of railway affairs (Ministry of Works), Robert Kalomo, construction of the Trans-Kalahari Railway would take five years ranging between $5-9 billion.

The Trans-Kalahari line would stretch over 1 500 km from Mmamabula to Walvis Bay, with a possibility of a connection to the South African Waterberg coal field, which is poised to be South Africa’s next major coal mining area.

Twenty-one consortiums, including Canadian-listed CIC Energy Corporation, have submitted bids for the project.

Last year, CIC disclosed that it was bidding to build the line together with diversified miner Exxaro, AIIM, Maropule, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Development Bank of Namibia.

It has been revealed that Botswana and Namibia intend to appoint a successful bidder by mid-2011, and a pre-feasibility study, funded by the World Bank, is expected to be completed by March. Namibia is also expected to construct a coal terminal at Walvis Bay.

Most southern African countries are investing heavily in rail line expansions to transport more export coal to ports to meet growing global demand, especially from Asia,

Namibia was also studying the extension of its rail network to Katima Mulilo on the Zambian frontier at a cost of N$7 billion, Kalomo added.

The Namibian-Zambian rail line would enable Zambian minerals to be exported via the west-coast port, thus avoiding the congested routes through Durban and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Namibia is also revisting the idea to construct a new port at Cape Fria near the Angolan border.