“It has always been the intention of the Zambian government to link directly with Angola without having to go through a third country,” Enoch Kavindele, chairman North West Rail Company (NWR) told CNBC Africa.
The first phase, comprising of a new 290 km line in Zambia, is at the end of its pre-feasibility stage and a bankability study is expected to be completed before the end of 2014. Construction will then commence early next year.
“We know there is a missing link of about 427 km between the mining towns of Kolwezi and the border town of Bulolo. There is a shorter route, in fact there is an unpaved road that has been used in the past for bringing minerals especially concentrates from the mines in Kolwezi to Zambia and the distance of that is only 100 km,” Kavindele said.
The second phase is intended to open up a direct corridor to Lobito, which would allow landlocked Zambia to import oil directly from Angola, and to stimulate further mining activity in the western copperbelt.
On completion, the railway project will provide a cheaper and easier mode of transportation of copper by mines in the area with the recently increased investment in the mining sector in North-Western Province.
These exclusive rights to build, operate and maintain were granted to NWR by the Zambian government in July 2006 and the railway line project, is a joint venture between the railway company and [DATA GND:Grindrod Limited], a freight and logistics service provider.
According to Kavindele, the momentum is on Angola to connect to Zambia.
Angola’s current fiscal budget includes an allocation for the cost of building a 395km rail link from Luacano in Angola to a Northwest Railway link on the Zambian border.
The estimated capital cost of Phase 1 is 489 million US dollars while Phase 2 of the NWR project is estimated to cost 500 million US dollars.