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South Africa’s RBCT coal exports hit 29-year low in 2022

South Africa’s Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) saw coal exports fall to 50.35 million tonnes last year, down 14% to their lowest since 1993, reflecting a lack of trains to carry coal from mines to port.

Exports to Europe from Africa’s largest coal export facility surged to 14.3 million tonnes from 2.3 million tonnes in 2021, RBCT said on Thursday, as European countries scrambled to secure alternatives to Russian supply.

RBCT, owned by coal mining companies including Thungela, Exxaro Resources, and Glencore’s South Africa subsidiary, has been operating far below its annual export capacity of 91 million tonnes of coal.

The terminal, which can only accept coal via train, saw an average of 18 trains a day in 2022, against a capacity of 32 a day. As South Africa’s rail service deteriorated, some coal miners last year opted to truck their product to port instead.

Poor maintenance, a lack of spare parts for locomotives, and massive copper cable theft have disrupted state logistics firm Transnet’s freight rail services, causing coal and iron ore exports to fall in recent years.

Asia dominated as an export destination, with 31.7 million tonnes of coal going to the region from RBCT.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Helen Reid and Nelson Banya; editing by Jason Neely, Robert Birsel)

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