The expansion will boost the terminal’s export capacity from 72Mt per annum to 86Mtpa by the 2007-08 financial year.
According to McCloskey's Daily Coal News, the news will be very welcome to the coal industry, which has been anxious for confirmation of the project to ensure plans for higher coal exports can be accommodated.
The project had been held up by differences between the National Ports Authority (NPA) and the RBCT, but was given new impetus recently by the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two parties agreeing on the 86Mtpa target.
Spoornet, which operates the 600 kilometre rail line between the Mpumalanga coal region and the port of Richard's Bay, must also support the expansion, although the rail capacity for Richard's Bay coal exports is also 86Mtpa.
"Now that the hold-up with the NPA has been resolved, there are still some issues being revisited with Spoornet, but they are being very cooperative," RBCT managing director Nigel Stevens said.
"Approval is expected soon, and we foresee going ahead by April. Beyond this, however, supply side scenarios do not envisage Richard's Bay exports beyond the 86mt/yr level...so further expansion is extremely unlikely."
Spoornet has committed to improving its coal transport efficiencies in general by operating larger rail wagons and longer trans. For coal transport specifically, in fiscal 2004-05 alone Spoornet planned to commission some 800 wagons to be modernised and expanded from 32t to 60t. Consignment sizes would also increase, ranging from 20 to 50 rail wagons per train, and other efficiency improvements would be undertaken.