Coal Infrastructure

The key to enabling marketing options with Botswana’s massive coal reserves (estimated at more than 200 billion tons (Mt)) are through the development of rail infrastructure in the region. The joint commercial exploitation of this is clearly recognised by the Botswana government and its neighbours.  There are current plans addressing the requirements for increasing the short, medium and long term rail, port and handling facilities.

Short Term:

Potential for regional coal sector growth must be harnessed by integrating efforts  between Transnet Freight Rail (“TFR”) and Botswana Railways to develop integrated and efficient rail logistics solutions. TFR recently announced that a 105km heavy haul coal rail link between Botswana and South Africa will commence construction next year as part of a R300 billion infrastructure investment programme initiated by TFR.

  • Transnet’s railway line Ramatlabama-Durban via Johannesburg is currently in use.
  • Transnet will upgrade the Magalisburg line to Durban to deliver >10Mt per annum
  • If export tonnes reach10Mt rail tariffs are expected to reduce to 3 US cents per t/km

Medium Term:

TFR has allocated approximately R40 billion for the construction of this line which will link into existing coal heavy haul railway lines and is aimed at transporting coal from Botswana into South Africa to be consumed by state electricity generator Eskom, or exported via the seaborne market. TFR will start constructing the rail link in 2015, immediately after the completion of feasibility studies. The line will be designed to carry 40-80 million tonnes per year. South Africa is also planning to develop the Richards Bay Coal Terminal to support the expected [volumes] from Botswana and the Waterberg coalfield in South Africa.

  • Opportunity for Botswana to secure a dedicated coal terminal for Botswana at Richards Bay
  • The Government of Botswana is supporting the Botswana Chamber of Mines in its quest to partake in this port development.



Long Term

There are a number of options being discussed and planned for various long term heavy haul rail infrastructure to ship Botswana coal through South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique.

Trans-Kalahari Railway (TKR): The Governments of Botswana and Namibia have signed an agreement to build the Trans-Kalahari Railway (TKR), a 1500km heavy-haul line linking Botswana’s coalfields with the existing railhead at Gobabis in Namibia. As well as the new line from Botswana, the TKR project will involve complete rehabilitation of the TransNamib line from Gobabis, via the capital Windhoek, to serve the new port at Walvis Bay. Construction costs for the TKR are estimated at $N 100bn ($US 9.2bn), and financing will be sought from the private sector. TKR The rail project would include an extended commodity terminal at Walvis Bay port. The coal terminal would be configured to handle about 65-million tonnes of coal a year. The railway will also expand freight capacity on congested transport corridors within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and is also expected to provide greater access to global markets for other landlocked countries in the region like Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


Trans-Kalahari Railway

Trans-Kalahari Railway


South Africa: The ongoing major infrastructure development of the joint venture project is scheduled for completion in three phases from 2022 to 2024, involves construction of a heavy haul rail (HHR) link to Mammabula coalfields include a 3 to 4 km long bridge across the Limpopo. This would link with the new HHR line from Lephalale to Thabazimbi onward to Emelo before Richard Bay Coal Terminal (“RBCT”).

Mozambique: Ongoing discussions in the development of the Ponte Techobanine route in Mozambique – run by Transwana aiming to get the rail cutting across Zimbabawe to Mozambique from Mahalapye area.

Botswana Coal: Botswana has extensive, and largely unexploited, coal resources which when developed can form part of the Government’s effort to significantly diversify the country’s economy. Known coal resources in Botswana are of the order of 202 billion tonnes. The demand for coal-for-energy has increased significantly nationally, regionally and internationally and there is also potential to produce coal based products from Botswana coal.

The quality of Botswana coal falls well within the range of current global seabourne bituminous exports.

Comparison of the quality of Botswana coals against well-know reference brands.
  Botswana (High) Botswana (Low) Newcastle Benchmark Richards Bay
Energy kcal/kg 6,000 5,400 6,322 6,300
Total moisture % (ar) 8 10 15 (max) 15 (max)
Inherent moisture % (ad) 4 5    
Ash % (ad) 13 20 14 (max) 16 (max)
Fixed carbon (ad) 58 50    
Total Sulphur (ad) 0.45 0.8 <0.75 <1.0

Botswana Coal Market Opportunities

Coal Exports – Exporting coal into the seaborne markets
Domestic Power – to generate electricity for domestic consumption
Export Power – Generating power for us by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries
Coal to Liquids – producing liquid fuels from coal
Coal to Gas – producing gas from coal for power generation
Coal Bed Methane – extracting CBM from gassy coal seams for power generation and LNG export
Fertilisers – producing nitrogen based fertilisers from coal
Botswana Coal Market Opportunities