Mozambique’s Ports and Railway Company, CFM will need at least $8 million to restore rail traffic along the Sena line, between the Moatize coal basin in Tete province and the central Mozambican port of Beira, which was interrupted after floods on the Zambezi river washed away ballast on vast parts of the line.
Transport and Communications Minister Paulo Zucula late on Sunday blamed the India Firm, Rites and Icon, which last year lost a government contract to repair the line after repeated delays to repair the 665km rail stretch, a key infrastructure for multinational firms which are pouring billions of dollars to tap vast deposits of unexplored coal reserves.
"It’s true that the fluvial waters played an adverse role, but the last company to repair the track did a bad job in overlooking the drainage system, now the CFM will have to fork out at least $8 million to repair the damaged parts", Zucula told reporters after visiting the line late on Sunday.
Ballast on the line completely disappeared from a 15 meter stretch of line between the Messito and Doa rail stations in Tete.
The Portuguese contractor Mota-Engil, involved in the current upgrading of the Sena line, is preparing to erect a small bridge in the critical area to allow traffic to resume as soon as possible.
There is an average of 12 trains a day along the line, and the main cargo is coal-mined by the companies Vale and Rio Tinto.
The interruption of rail traffic is a serious blow to the mining companies whom are pouring billions of dollars to tap vast coal deposits, and demonstrates how fragile the mining logistics are.
In theory, the Sena line can handle six million tons of cargo a year, but the mining companies’ forecasts are for exports on a much larger scale.
The current upgrading work may bring the total capacity of the Sena line to 20 million tons a year, but the delays in completing this work has led Vale to cut back its export forecasts.
Brazil´s Vale hopes to free itself from dependence on the Sena line by building a new railway across southern Malawi that will connect with Mozambique’s existing northern line, and carry the coal to the port of Nacala.
Vale and Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto are the multinational companies most affected by the stoppage, as they already produce and export coal in Tete.
The two companies this week suspended operations in what they described as force majeure, following the inability to fulfill their contract terms to supply coal mined in Mozambique’s Tete province.
The Sena railroad had come to a standstill due to derailments and torrential rains that have washed away parts of the line and small bridges.
This has meant that Vale Moçambique has been unable to transport around 250,000 tons of coal in the past few weeks.
Source African Press Agency
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