Angola to restore copper railway after 40-year gap

Angola to restore copper railway after 40-year gap : ANGOLA plans to restart a railway used to bring copper metal to the Atlantic Ocean port of Lobito from some of the world’s richest copper fields, after a four-decade halt due to a civil war.

The line from the port of Lobito will reach the border of Zambia in August, Luis Lopes Teixeira, technical director of Caminho de Ferro de Benguela, said.

Cargo will be transported along the refurbished 1,344km line linking Lobito with Luau on the Zambian border.

Once a branch line inside Zambia is completed in December, Lobito will be able to compete with ports in East Africa for copper exports from Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo, which together account for about 7.4% of world production of the metal, according to the US Geological Service. Copper is the biggest export of both nations.

“The line will serve, directly or indirectly, a vast region of the interior and east of the country, as well as neighbouring countries that don’t benefit from a maritime coastline, such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and part of Democratic Republic of Congo,” Mr Teixeira says. “It will have a strong influence on the balance of their economies.”

The route will offer shorter access to European and American markets via the Atlantic, and restore Angola’s part of an 84-year-old transcontinental rail network that transports some Congolese and Zambian copper, cobalt, manganese and zinc east to Beira in Mozambique and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Most of the metal is transported to ports by truck.

Companies that mine copper along the copperbelt, which straddles the border between Congo and Zambia, include Barrick Gold, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Glencore International and First Quantum Minerals.

Angola has spent about $1.9bn in mostly oil-backed loans from China to rebuild the railway as it recovers from a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002, according to Jose Manuel Alves de Rocha, an economist at the Catholic University in Luanda.

Trains run 1,032km from Lobito and nearby Benguela to Luena in Angola’s eastern Moxico province, Mr Teixeira says. The final section of 312km to Luau is under construction by China Railway Construction Corporation. The Lobito Corridor, as the route is known, will handle 20-million passengers a year and 2-million tons of goods, he says.

“Angola has now the opportunity to play an important role in the outflow of the minerals coming from the copperbelt region, which would further increase the country’s profile within the Southern Africa Development Community,” Ana Cristina Alves, a senior researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, says. “It’s an important landmark for the government.”

The rail company has eight locomotives, 66 passenger cars and 94 cargo wagons, with plans to acquire 40 more trains, all from China, Mr Teixeira says.

One of the biggest challenges facing the rebuilt line is to compete efficiently with other sub-Saharan railways and ensure adequate maintenance, he says.

Rail lines from Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe and SA are looking at ways to co-operate and increase traffic and trade into the Port of Durban. State-owned Zambia Railways signed a co-operation agreement with Transnet Freight Rail, a unit of SA’s Transnet SOC, on February 20.

The Benguela line will also have to compete with a railway to Tanzania that offers a route to the Asian economies, Ms Alves says.

The Benguela Railway was first built under contract from Portugal, Angola’s former colonial ruler, by Sir Robert William’s Benguela Railway to export metal from the provinces of Copperbelt in Zambia and Katanga in Congo. Construction, which began in 1903, was halted during the First World War and completed in 1929. Service along most of the route was discontinued after the start of Angola’s civil war in 1975 at the end of colonial rule. Trains ran from Benguela to Huambo about 340km east until 1992. Reconstruction began in 2006 after a $300m loan from the China International Fund.

“We feel proud, recognising that it also means more responsibility, as the result of our work is viewed with more attention, not only within Angola but in other African countries,” Mr Teixeira said.


Source : bd live

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