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MMEC 2024: “Transport Challenges and Solutions for the Mining and Energy Sector”

MMEC 2024: “Transport Challenges and Solutions for the Mining and Energy Sector”

The 10th edition of the Mozambique Mining and Energy Conference and Exhibition (MMEC), held in Maputo, highlighted the main logistical challenges faced by the mining and energy sectors, focusing on innovative solutions to improve efficiency in the transport of raw materials and finished products. Internationally renowned experts and sector leaders gathered to debate and map out the way forward to overcome infrastructural barriers and maximise the economic potential of these vital industries for national development.

Mlandzeni Boyce, CEO of ROMPCO, the company that operates the main artery of pipelines connecting Mozambique’s vast gas fields to growing markets in South Africa, emphasised the critical importance of effective infrastructure for the successful transport of natural gas in the region.

‘Infrastructure challenges are a significant obstacle for us,’ he said. ‘Our region, for example, is rich in resources, but demand is mostly concentrated inland. This forces us to rethink our transport and distribution strategies in order to meet the needs of the markets efficiently.’

ROMPCO’s CEO emphasised the urgent need to expand the existing pipeline infrastructure, which would allow for a more robust and reliable flow of natural gas. ‘We are exploring innovative solutions, such as the idea of a “virtual pipeline”, using our network of underused roads to optimise the transport of resources to the points of demand,’ he explained. According to him, this approach would not only reduce logistics costs but also increase the company’s operational efficiency.

For his part, Parshant Goyal, executive director of JSPL Mozambique Minerais Lda, a leading company in the steel, energy, mining, coal-to-liquids, oil, gas and infrastructure sectors, highlighted the critical gaps in transport infrastructure that directly impact the mining sector in Mozambique. During his speech, he emphasised the urgent need for strategic investments to support the expansion of mining operations, especially in terms of logistical capacities to support increased production and exports.

‘As one of the main operators at the Chirodzi mine, we face significant challenges due to the inadequacy of the existing infrastructure,’ he explained. ‘The current road only supports the transport of 1.2 million tonnes per year, while we plan to expand production to up to 3.8 million tonnes in the coming years. The need for more robust and efficient roads is therefore imminent.’

Parshant Goyal also addressed the limitations of the Sena railway line, which is currently operating well below its maximum capacity. ‘The line has a capacity of 12 million tonnes, but can only carry between 3.5 and 4 million tonnes. This not only increases costs but also the carbon footprint of coal transport.’

With regard to ports, the executive director of JSPL Mozambique Minerais Lda highlighted the inefficiency of the regional port, which is unable to accommodate larger ships, resulting in high costs and making rates unattractive for customers. ‘The need to increase the harbour’s draft and improve its capacity is crucial to improving the economy of our sector in Mozambique,’ he said.

The debate was enriched by Olimpia Pilch, Operations Director of the International Critical Minerals Alliance (CMA), who brought a vital perspective on the challenges and opportunities associated with critical minerals during MMEC 2024. The CMA, which plays a crucial role in coordinating and promoting initiatives linked to minerals essential for advanced and sustainable technologies, is at the forefront of efforts to ensure the responsible and efficient exploitation of these resources.

Olimpia Pilch highlighted the complexities of the critical minerals market, emphasising the difficulty of justifying large investments in infrastructure due to the variable size of reserves. ‘Critical minerals are key to green and renewable technologies, but reserves are often smaller, which complicates the large infrastructure investments needed to exploit them,’ she explained.

The impact of geopolitical factors was also a central theme in Olimpia Pilch’s discussion. ‘Critical minerals are often subject to intense geopolitical considerations, which adds a layer of complexity to investing in and exploiting these resources. In addition, we face challenges in modernising existing infrastructure and ensuring that renewable energy can be used efficiently,’ she said.

Despite the challenges, the CMA’s Operations Director is optimistic about the potential for sustainable development that critical minerals can offer. ‘It is essential to recognise that a successful case can pave the way for other investments and bring benefits beyond the mining sector. Initial success can attract more participants to the sector, benefiting the economy more broadly,’ she finalised.

The conference, organised by the Ministry of Mining Resources and Energy (MIREME) through the National Hydrocarbons Company (ENH), in partnership with AME Mozambique and AMETrade, is taking place in Maputo under the slogan ‘Partnerships for Prosperity: Unlocking Mozambique’s Resources to Advance National and Regional Economic Growth’. It lasted two days (2 and 3 May) and brought together government officials, businesspeople and experts in the extractive and oil and gas areas.

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