Richards Bay Coal Terminal

From Global Energy Monitor

Richards Bay Coal Terminal is located in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa.

The terminal 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 of 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)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.[1][2]


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

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The company's website (2015) stated 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]

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.[6] 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.[7]

Coal from the country's Penumbra thermal coal project was expected to be exported through the Richards Bay Coal Terminal in the second quarter of 2012.[8]

In 2014, the facility transported 71.3 million tonnes, a record.[9][3]

Proposed expansion

In October 2011, the state-owned logistics group Transnet said it planned 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, would cost around 12.3 billion rand. Some 7.3 billion of that would be financed by Swazi Rail.[10] In January 2012, Transnet said the first Swazi train would run in three years, and would 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 would run between the coal-producing province of Mpumalanga and the port to the east, cutting through landlocked Swaziland. In the meantime, Transnet said it would increase coal deliveries to the terminal by 17 percent to 74 million tons in 2012.[11]

Anglo American, Exxaro, Sasol, BHP Billiton, and Xstrata Coal were looking to export more coal to supply growing demand from power plants in Asia. But South Africa's ruling African National Congress was debating whether to declare coal a strategic resource to ensure South African power plants were supplied - the country used coal for about 85 percent of its power.[12]

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 was 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...".[13]

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. [14]

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.[15]

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.[16] 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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[9]

Expansion cancelled

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."[18]

Declining coal exports

In 2020, coal exports from the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) declined by two million tonnes to 70.2 million tonnes. This was the third consecutive year of decline, with exports at their lowest since 2013. South African coal exports were hit by rapidly declining demand in Europe and were vulnerable to India’s aim to switch to domestic thermal coal instead of expensive imports. RBCT stated 92 percent of its exports were destined for Asia with India and Pakistan the largest customers. RBCT stated it aimed to export 77 million tonnes in 2021, well below its nominal capacity.[19]

Future Plans

In May 2021, it was reported that South Africa’s national ports master plan would see the Richards Bay based Transnet National Port Terminal (TNPT) division relinquish its current coal terminal operations completely to the neighbouring Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) company. The general manager, Thami Sithole, said that “While RBCT has been the main coal export operator in the region, TNPT has also been, for many years, assisting in the handling of coal shipment, specifically for smaller miners who do not have the technical capacity to link into the RBCT. But in order to focus on the export of the chrome mineral, other natural resources and the LNG products, we will no longer be dealing in coal.” Transnet was engaged with mining and gas operating companies that were expected to be affected by the stoppage of its coal shipment operations, a move aimed at ensuring they would remain stable.[20]


RBCT is owned by 13 coal mining companies, including subsidiaries of Glencore, South32, Sasol, Anglo American, and Exxaro Resources. The shareholding companies in the terminal are listed on its website.[21]

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:

Resources and articles

Related articles


  1. Martin Creamer, "Richards Bay Coal Terminal sets new 75.4Mt export record," Mining Weekly, Jan 19, 2016
  2. "Richards Bay expansion by April", Mining Review, December 14, 2009
  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. "Richards Bay Coal Terminal Exports Fell by 7.5% in September" Jana Marais,, October 5, 2011
  7. Agnieszka Flak, "S.Africa's Transnet says moving RBCT coal at record" ShareNet, October 26, 2011
  8. "Continental breaks ground on third S Africa coal mine," Mining Weekly, September 8, 2011
  9. 9.0 9.1 "S.Africa's Richards Bay Coal Terminal exports record level in 2014," Reuters Africa, January 20, 2015
  10. "S.Africa's Transnet says moving RBCT coal at record," ShareNet, October 26, 2011
  11. Sikonathi Mantshantsha, "Transnet, Swaziland Agree Rail Link to Increase Coal Volumes," Bloomberg, January 12, 2012
  12. "UPDATE 1-S.Africa's Transnet insists on coal line expansion," Reuters, July 10, 2012
  13. "S.Africa's Transnet plans new coal export terminal," Reuters, November 22, 2012
  14. "Fight is on to expand Richards Bay port," BusinessDay Live, January 31, 2014
  15. "RBCT ready to boost junior coal exports in partnership with Transnet," Mining Weekly, March 27, 2014
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Transnet coal terminal put on hold," BusinessDay Live, October 30, 2014
  17. "South African thermal coal exports hit 74.42 mil mt in 2014: customs," Platts, February 2, 2015
  18. Martin Creamer, "Richards Bay Coal Terminal sets new 75.4Mt export record," Mining Weekly, Jan 19, 2016
  19. "Third consecutive year of coal export decline from Richards Bay Coal Terminal," Mining Weekly, January 27, 2021
  20. "Richards Bay port upgrade to boost Durban," IOL, May 31, 2021
  21. "RBCT shareholders," Richards Bay Coal Terminal Company website, accessed October 2021