Richards Bay Coal Terminal

From Global Energy Monitor

Richards Bay Coal Terminal, located in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa, is one of the world's largest coal export terminals and the largest in Africa. The terminal is owned by the Richards Bay Coal Terminal Company Ltd, a consortium comprising ten shareholding coal and coal logistics companies.

Future plans had called for Richards Bay's current capacity of 91 million tonnes per annum (achieved in 2010 during the terminal's Phase V expansion[1]) to increase to 110 million tonnes per annum. However, talks were discontinued in 2016, as the terminal's full current capacity is not being used.[2]


The terminal is located in the Richards Bay harbour on the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa.

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Project Details

  • Operator: Richards Bay Coal Terminal Company Ltd
  • Location: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Current Capacity: 91 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa)
  • Additional Proposed Capacity: 19 Mtpa
  • Status: Operating; Plans for proposed expansion suspended (2016)
  • Type: Exports (primarily India and Netherlands)
  • Coal Source: mines in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal
  • Cost of expansion:
  • Financing for expansion:


On its website the company states that the "Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) is the single largest export coal terminal in the world. Opened in 1976 with an original capacity of 12 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), it has grown into an advanced 24-hour operation with a design capacity of 91 Mtpa."[3]

In August 2011 Richards Bay Coal Terminal shipments rose 28 percent compared to 2010, as the cost of coal increased.[4] The port shipped a monthly record of 8.08 million tonnes of the fuel in December 2011.[5]

Coal from the country's Penumbra thermal coal project is to begin being exported through the Richards Bay Coal Terminal in the second quarter of 2012.[6]

In 2014 the facility transported 71.3 million tonnes, a record.[7][3]


In October 2011, the state-owned logistics group Transnet said it plans to add an additional 14 million tons of capacity on the coal line by moving non-coal cargo to a new line via Swaziland. The Swazi link, expected within six years, will cost around 12.3 billion rand. Some 7.3 billion of that will be financed by Swazi Rail.[8] In January 2012, Transnet said the first Swazi train will run in three years, and will create additional capacity of 15 million metric tons annually to Richards Bay Coal Terminal, eventually to 95 million tons a year. The 140-kilometer (87-mile) railway will run between the coal-producing province of Mpumalanga and the port to the east, cutting through landlocked Swaziland. In the meantime, Transnet said it will increase coal deliveries to the terminal by 17 percent to 74 million tons in 2012.[9]

Anglo American, Exxaro, Sasol, BHP Billiton, and Xstrata Coal are looking to export more coal to supply growing demand from power plants in Asia. But South Africa's ruling African National Congress is debating whether to declare coal a strategic resource to ensure South African power plants are supplied - the country uses coal for about 85 percent of its power.[10]

In November 2012 Transnet stated that it planned to build its own new coal terminal at Richards Bay as a way of bypassing the existing terminal which is controlled by the Richards Bay Coal Terminal Company, a consortium of existing coal companies and a coal transport company. Sudesh Maharaj, programme director for Transnet's Richards Bay port expansion projects, told Reuters that the company was planning to build a terminal capable of handling 14 million tons a year with the capacity to be upgraded to 32 million tons a year. Reuters reported that "the facility could begin exporting by mid-2020 if approved by the Transnet board...".[11]

In early 2014, Transnet was reported to be considering a possible partnership with the black-led company RBTGrindrod to build a new terminal with the express intent of increasing export market opportunities for emerging black miners. [12]

RBCT's CEO Nosipho Siwisa-Damasane responded by offering to work with Transnet to ensure that an additional 19 million tonnes of coal export capacity would be made available to South Africa’s emerging black coal-mining juniors as part of RBCT's proposed Phase 6 expansion to 110 million tonnes of export shipping capacity.[13]

In October 2014, Transnet announced that it was putting plans for its new coal terminal on hold, citing an agreement with RBCT to double the coal export capacity of junior black miners through Quattro, a black economic empowerment scheme.[14] Reacting to Transnet's announcement, Xavier Prevost of the South African coal consulting company XMP noted that building a new terminal at Richards Bay would not have made commercial sense, given the fact that RBCT's existing terminal was operating below capacity due to low global coal prices.[14]

In January 2015, Reuters reported that Richards Bay Coal Terminal exported 71.3 million tons of coal in 2014, more than in any previous year. India accounted for the lion's share of South African coal exports in 2014, taking delivery of 30.45 million mt, while the Netherlands was the next largest recipient, taking 9.69 million mt.[15] CEO Nosipho Siwisa-Damasane told reporters that research on an expansion plan designed to accommodate small producers was now complete, and confirmed that his company aimed to expand the terminal's annual capacity from 91 million to 110 million tons.[7]

However, in January 2016 it was reported that because the terminal’s 91-million-tonne capacity was still far from being taken up, talks with Transnet on the Phase 6 expansion had been discontinued "for the time being."[16]


The ten shareholding companies in the terminal are:[17]

Executive resigns

In October 2011 Richards Bay Coal Terminal chief executive Raymond Chirwa resigned after holding the position for two years, reportedly because the terminal exports fell up to October 2011 compared to the same time in 2010.[18] A few weeks later it was reported that 1.6 million tons of coal per week had been moved to the terminal, up from 1.4 million tons.[19]

Contact details

South Dunes
Richards Bay Harbour
South Africa, 3900

Postal address
PO Box 56
Richards Bay, 3900
South Africa
Phone: +27 (0)35 904 4911

Resources and articles

Related articles


  1. "Richards Bay expansion by April", Mining Review, December 14, 2009.
  2. Martin Creamer, "Richards Bay Coal Terminal sets new 75.4Mt export record," Mining Weekly, Jan 19, 2016
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Richards Bay Coal Terminal", Richards Bay Coal Terminal website, accessed January 2015.
  4. "Richards Bay Coal Exports Climbed 28% in August on Year" Business Week, September 6, 2011.
  5. "Richards Bay Coal Terminal Shipments Expand by 31% to Record"] Bloomberg, January 9, 2012.
  6. "Continental breaks ground on third S Africa coal mine" Mariaan Webb, Mining Weekly, September 8, 2011.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "S.Africa's Richards Bay Coal Terminal exports record level in 2014", Reuters Africa, January 20, 2015.
  8. Agnieszka Flak, "S.Africa's Transnet says moving RBCT coal at record" ShareNet, Oct. 26, 2011.
  9. Sikonathi Mantshantsha, "Transnet, Swaziland Agree Rail Link to Increase Coal Volumes" Bloomberg, January 12, 2012.
  10. Agnieszka Flak, "UPDATE 1-S.Africa's Transnet insists on coal line expansion," Reuters, July 10, 2012.
  11. "S.Africa's Transnet plans new coal export terminal", Reuters, November 22, 2012.
  12. "Fight is on to expand Richards Bay port" BusinessDay Live, January 31, 2014.
  13. "RBCT ready to boost junior coal exports in partnership with Transnet" Mining Weekly, March 27, 2014.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Transnet coal terminal put on hold" BusinessDay Live, October 30, 2014.
  15. "South African thermal coal exports hit 74.42 mil mt in 2014: customs," Platts, 2 Feb 2015
  16. Martin Creamer, "Richards Bay Coal Terminal sets new 75.4Mt export record," Mining Weekly, Jan 19, 2016
  17. "RBCT shareholders", Richards Bay Coal Terminal Company website, accessed November 2012.
  18. "Richards Bay Coal Terminal Exports Fell by 7.5% in September" Jana Marais,, October 5, 2011.
  19. Agnieszka Flak, "S.Africa's Transnet says moving RBCT coal at record" ShareNet, Oct. 26, 2011.