By Antonio Ruffini

27 March 2013 – South African electricity utility Eskom is endeavouring to move more of the transport of the coal required for its power stations from the country’s roads to rail transport. While some 75% of Eskom’s coal comes from mine mouth supply via conveyors as is ideal, much of the rest is supplied via road transport. Road networks in the country’s Mpumalanga province have become damaged and in parts destroyed by the volume of trucks transporting coal to Eskom’s power stations.

The power stations most reliant on road transport are Eskom’s three return to service power stations, Grootvlei, Camden and Komati, as well as the Majuba power station whose mine orebody proved to be flawed at inception. Other power stations that see a portion of their coal transported by road are Arnot, Hendrina and Tutuka.

The biggest road to rail plan relates to Majuba which uses some 13 to 14 million tonnes of coal a year. About 6.5 million of these tonnes arrive by rail, and a new 63 km railway line from Ermelo to Majuba power station close to Amersfoort to increase the amount arriving by rail by 4.8 million tonnes will be in part funded by the World Bank. The idea is to have this rail link in place by the end of 2015.

Eskom’s coal fired power stations use some 125 million tonnes of coal a year, with this to increase to about 150 million tonnes in 2020 when Medupi and Kusile are in operation.