* Line to transport coal from mines to port
* Will also transport fertilizer, grain, sugar and cement
* May go through Malawi
By Charles Mangwiro
MAPUTO, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Mozambique plans to build a $500 million railway line by 2015 to ship coal from its Moatize mines to the deepwater port of Nacala, a government minister said on Sunday.
Transport and Communications Minister Paulo Zucula said the new railway line, which may cut through the southern part of Malawi, would help establish a new link to the northern port of Nacala, seen as an optimum location from which to ship coal.
“This is a viable venture, we will do it either via Malawi or inside Mozambique. Our estimates is that this project will cost not less than half a billion dollars,” Zucula told Reuters in an interview.
“We want this line to be ready by 2015 because by that time we will have reached the peak of coal production in Moatize.”
Mozambique wants to become a regional trans-shipment route, and plans to invest $150 million to upgrade its port, rail and roads infrastructure in the Nacala Development Corridor in the next five years.
The southern African country wants to serve as an alternative to the highly congested ports of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania and Kenya’s Mombasa, and Zucula said neighbouring landlocked country Malawi would use the railway line as its route into world markets.
“Malawi will also use this line to transport its fertilizer, grain, sugar and cement and we have invited the private sector to participate,” Zucula said.
Mozambique’s ports and railways are slowly recovering from a lack of maintenance programmes as a result of years of civil war.
Its three major ports include the Maputo, Beira and Nacala corridors, strategically important to Mozambique’s neighbours, especially landlocked Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The country’s 565 km Sena Railroad is expected to carry a maximum of 6 million tonnes of coal between Moatize and the port of Beira once refurbishment is completed by the end of this year.
Brazilian mining giant Vale VALE5.SA has a mining concession in the Tete district of Moatize, which it predicts will produce around 11 million tonnes of coal a year.
Reporting by Charles Mangwiro; Editing by Serena Chaudhry, John Stonestreet