Business Maverick


‘South Africa can’t deliver’: Transnet hit by yet another derailment on coal line

‘South Africa can’t deliver’: Transnet hit by yet another derailment on coal line
(Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Transnet suffered another derailment on its coal line at the weekend, the state logistics firm said on Tuesday, forcing it to close an 11km stretch of one of two rail lines that carry minerals from inland mines to the Richards Bay terminal for export.

Transnet said it was the second derailment since April, and it comes as South African miners are anxious to move as much coal abroad as possible and take advantage of prices which clocked a more than 10-year high above $130/tonne this week.

On Saturday, a coal train pulling 208 wagons derailed near Vryheid in northern KwaZulu-Natal. A total of 30 wagons derailed, Transnet said in a statement. No injuries were reported.

“This is the second significant derailment on the coal line since the beginning of this financial year,” said Transnet spokesperson Ayanda Shezi. 

“Though the frequency is not high, these derailments have severe consequences for the SA coal value chain, our customers, Transnet and the economy at large.”

Mining accounts for about 11% of South Africa’s total gross domestic product (GDP), and since late last year has been the main driver of the country’s better-than-expected bounce in economic growth, lifting terms of trade and leading to a tidy windfall of around R100-billion rand. This was as other sectors stalled, weighed down by renewed Covid-19 lockdowns and slowing consumer spending.

Coal is among South Africa’s chief commodity exports, second only to platinum, and accounts for a quarter of the country’s total mining production. Despite its growing unpopularity globally due to the crackdown on greenhouse gases, it remains a key source of mining revenue and electricity supply.         

However, Trasnet’s battle to secure a smooth passage for coal miners to supply the export market may see South Africa lose out on the global commodity upswing. It also dents the credibility of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan for an infrastructure-led economic recovery.

“Transnet’s problems are symptoms of a body that’s been fed poison for a very long time,” said mining analyst Peter Major, confirming that South African mines risked missing out on the commodity boom. 

“The coal price is this high because South Africa can’t deliver. It’s the same with gold. The country loses about 10-15 million tonnes a year of coal. That’s about $1-billion a year.” DM/BM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Hiram C Potts says:

    The result of years of ANC misrule & exacerbated over the 10 years of Zuma the presidency.
    Our railway infrastructure & networks have collapsed to the point of no return; a lethal combination of ineptitude, lack of maintenance, corruption & theft at every level.

    I can think of no other country in the World where a govt. has sat back & allowed its strategic national infrastructure to be plundered & destroyed to this degree. Even in Zimbabwe which is just about in free-fall, try vandalising a station or stealing railway tracks & cables & see what happens….

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox

Download the Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox.

+ Your election day questions answered
+ What's different this election
+ Test yourself! Take the quiz