Opening up historic transport route from DRC mines

Trafigura Group, one of the world’s leading independent commodity trading companies has successfully taken the first step towards reopening one of Africa’s most historic trade routes, with an epic train journey that ended in the Angolan port of Lobito a few days ago.

A cargo of 800 t of blister copper, purchased by Trafigura from the Copperbelt mining region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), made the nearly 1,800 km journey by train from Kolwezi to Lobito.

“Although the volume carried is small in relation to total copper exports from the DRC, this was an operation of significant importance for both the Trafigura Group and the region,” said Julien Rolland, a member of Trafigura’s management committee.

“This train carried the first consignments of copper to travel along the Lobito corridor from the DRC to Angola’s Atlantic coast in more than 40 years.  It has the potential to mark the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a railway line that dates back more than a century and once took millions of tonnes of cargo from the mines of Congo to the ocean port of Lobito,” said Julien.  We intend to play a leading role in re-establishing this route, which still needs investment in the DRC railway.  A properly functioning Lobito corridor would take days off the journey time to a world class port that offers the fastest access to American and European markets.”

Currently copper is exported from the DRC east via Dar es Salaam in Tanzania or Beira in Mozambique, and more recently south via Durban in South Africa, a journey that takes two weeks or more. As export volumes have increased from the DRC, the roads have become more congested and delays at the border more protracted.  This new export corridor exploits existing national rail infrastructure, removes trucks from the roads and offers an alternative route to markets.

Impala Terminals has significant warehouse facilities in the DRC Copperbelt enabling material collection, loading and dispatch of trains. “This is a classic case where Trafigura trading and Impala Terminal’s assets can come together to offer superior service for our customers on a strategically important and commodities route that we have now proved is viable,” said Craig Mynhardt, Impala’s General Manager Africa. “The investments made along the Angolan leg of the line by DT Group, an Angolan focused Trafigura affiliate company, will also help to build traffic and improve returns.”