Grindrod LimitedFreight and logistics provider Grindrod Ltd., through its 100%-owned unit Grindrod Mauritius Ltd., has announced a deal to build, operate and maintain a 590 km cape gauge railway connecting Zambia’s Copperbelt to the Angolan border with the help of Northwest Rail Ltd. (NWR).

These exclusive rights were granted to NWR, a Zambian company, by the Harare government in Q3 2006. The agreement enables both companies to conclude a feasibility study currently underway. The Copperbelt, straddling the border of Northern Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is among Africa’s richest, most underdeveloped geological regions.

The railway will be built in two phases. The first will extend from Chingola to the Kansanshi, Lumwana and Kalumbila mines via 290 km of track; the second will link the Benguela line on the Zambia-Angola border near Jimbe. Phase one will service existing ore and finished copper traffic; phase two will open a corridor to Lobito, allowing landlocked Zambia to import oil from Angola, while stimulating further mining activity in the Western Copperbelt region.

Existing copper mines are located in the Eastern Copperbelt and serviced by smelters near to Chingola in Zambia and Lubumbashi in the DRC. New mine developments have started, and more are planned, in Zambia’s central and western Copperbelt which need to transport ore up to 300 kms for processing. Road infrastructure is poor, and the road transport costs are prohibitive, said company officials; rail transport solutions, accordingly will be more economic and much less damaging to the environment.

The capital cost of phase one is $489 million; phase two is anticipated at $500 million. Copper mining in this region represents 8% of global production; Business Monitor International (BMI) forecasts sustained growth in the Zambian copper industry at 5% per annum over the next decade.