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Minerals Council SA, Transnet agree on joint panels to ‘stabilise’ rail and port network

Minerals Council SA, Transnet agree on joint panels to ‘stabilise’ rail and port network
A Transnet freight train transports wagons of coal from an open-cast mine in Mpumalanga, South Africa, on 29 September 2022. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The stakes are high. Transnet’s woes, which mirror Eskom’s in many ways, have been hugely costly to the mining industry and wider economy.

The Minerals Council SA, an umbrella group for the mining sector, and Transnet have agreed to establish “joint collaborative structures” to keep the train and port network from going off the rails. 

The aim of this version of “private-public partnerships” is to “stabilise the whole system’s performance” with “recovery” as the ultimate aim.  

The stakes are high. Transnet’s woes, which mirror Eskom’s in many ways, have been hugely costly to the mining industry and wider economy. In October, the Minerals Council estimated that the sector had lost R50-billion in lost exports of bulk commodities like coal and iron ore up to that point in 2022. That followed R35-billion in losses in 2021.  

“To achieve the stabilisation and improved performance, the Transnet Board and Minerals Council Principals have agreed to establish an Oversight Panel, a Recovery Steering Committee and Channel Optimisation Teams for each of the major commodities (coal, iron ore, manganese and chrome),” the Minerals Council said in a statement.  


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“The five-a-side Recovery Steering Committee, made up of Transnet Board members, the Minerals Council CEO and CEO representatives of the bulk commodities, will deliberate, agree on and drive solutions that are cross-cutting to the rail and ports,” it said.  

Details remain scant, but it is clear that the mining industry wants to have a hands-on approach to resolving Transnet’s challenges as these can ultimately threaten the viability of many operations if things go from very bad to worse.  

Transnet’s capacity has been hobbled on many fronts, including the theft of copper cables, which has become so commonplace that the state-owned enterprise has daily and weekly reports on the issue.  

In early December, it unveiled some headway, with News24 reporting that such incidents were down by about a third over a seven-month period after 1,500 arrests.  

Transnet has suffered from other kinds of vandalism, fuel theft and general mismanagement. Getting it right is crucial so, hopefully, this initiative will help to stabilise and improve the situation. DM/BM

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