Tanzania-Zambia Rail Halts Operations, Copper Exports Affected

Tanzania-Zambia Rail Halts Operations, Copper Exports Affected : A key copper-exporting railway line that runs through Zambia and Tanzania has halted operations after an accident near the port city of Dar es Salaam, officials said Thursday, affecting exports from Africa’s largest producer of the metal.

The Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority, known as Tazara, has suspended operations after a rescue crane that was moving wagons involved in an earlier accident toppled over Tuesday, some 65 kilometers from Dar es Salaam, Tazara said. It hopes to reopen the line that handles both freight and passenger services by the weekend.

“Tazara regrets to announce that the main railway line has been blocked at a section in Tanzania�the railway authority has resolved to suspend train operations pending efforts to outsource and mobilize additional equipment,” Tazara said in a statement.

The accident comes weeks after Zambia’s second-largest copper miner, Konkola Copper Mines, ended a five-year hiatus in transporting its copper by rail, in order to avoid relying on road, which is more costly and expensive. Konkola is a unit of London-listed Vedanta Resources PLC (VED.LN).

Tazara, jointly owned by the Tanzanian and Zambian governments, operates the 1,860-kilometer-long line, which runs from Dar es Salaam to the heartland of Zambia’s vast copper and cobalt mines in the Copperbelt province, the lifeblood of the landlocked country’s economy. Yet the railway has been prone to breakdowns and accidents following years of underinvestment and poor maintenance, causing companies to switch to road for the bulk of their exports.

The latest incident has forced mining companies that use the line to delay copper shipments until it is fixed, said an official at Zambia’s Chamber of Mines.

Konkola’s next copper rail export cargo is expected to leave the Copperbelt on Friday, said company spokeswoman Joy Sata.

“We expect Tazara to have fixed the line by the time our cargo reaches the damaged section,” Ms. Sata told Dow Jones Newswires.

In January, the Zambian government allocated $32 million to the rail company to revamp the railway infrastructure in mining provinces.

Copper-mining companies in Zambia, such as Vedanta, Glencore International AG (GLEN.LN), First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (FM.T) and China Nonferrous Metals Co. (8306.HK) have increased their investment in a bid to raise output, stretching the country’s inadequate infrastructure facilities.

Zambia’s copper output is poised to hit up to 1.5 million metric tons by 2015 from around 800,000 tons produced last year.


Source : foxbusiness

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