South Africa

Theft halts iron-ore rail operations

Operations on the rail line linking South Africa’s iron-ore hub in the Northern Cape province to the country’s west coast ground to a halt because of power cable theft.

The 861-kilometre line that’s used to haul iron ore and manganese from Kumba Iron Ore’s giant Sishen mine and other operations in the province to the port of Saldanha stopped operating after the theft of 11 spans of wire caused a power failure on Tuesday, Transnet, the state-owned entity that operates the line, said in a statement.

“Security teams were immediately activated and are working with law enforcement agencies, stakeholders and customers to curb this security threat,” the company said.

“Our employees will be working around the clock to get services back to normal and get customers’ cargo moving as soon as possible.”

The route is the second crucial corridor to be hit by theft in the past month.

In the week ended May 21, a corridor that runs from the Port of Durban on the Indian Ocean coast to the City Deep station in downtown Johannesburg ran at just 25% capacity after overhead power lines that keep the trains running were severed.

The vandalism on the corridors adds to other problems that Transnet is grappling with, including a shortage of locomotive spare parts on its network that moves coal.

Earlier this year, Transnet rejected an overture from Kumba to take over the running of the iron-ore rail line, which is one of its most profitable, but battles to move sufficient volumes.