Sena railway

From Global Energy Monitor

The 660 kilometre-long Sena railway line runs from Moatize, in the centre of Mozambique to the Beira port. The railway line was re-developed and re-opened in June 2010 to facilitate the export of coal from new export coal mines around Moatize in Mozambique. The reopened line initially had a capacity of only five million tonnes of coal.[1]

By mid-2016 the railway had been further upgraded to a capacity of 20 million tonnes a year.[2]

The railway line, which was reinstated after the civil war with a loan from the World Bank, is vulnerable to flooding. In February 2013 flooding resulted in the railway being shut down for several weeks forcing Vale and Rio Tinto to suspend exports. The port of Beira also requires constant dredging to remain operational.[3]

Coal exports via the railway line have also been disrupted following violent clashes between the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) and its former civil war combatants, Renamo. The Sena railway runs near Renamo's stronghold in the Gorongosa area. In June 2013 Renamo threatened to block the railway line following government trrops moving into the area near Beira Port following an attack on a government arms depot in which six soldiers were killed.[4][5] Following the clashes Rio Tinto stated that it had "paused our operations on the rail line while we assess the current situation in Mozambique."[6] (In july 2014 Rio Tinto sold the interests of its subsidiary Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique to International Coal Ventures Private Limited (ICVL) for US$50 million.[7]


During the civil war RENAMO, a rebel group supported by the white minority governments of Rhodesia and South Africa, had laid mines along the railway in 1984. For the next twenty years the railway line was unusable. It wasn't until the mines were cleared in 2006 that the line was re-opened.[8] RENAMO sought to topple the socialist FRELIMO government which gained power after the collapse of the colonialist Portuguese military regime.[9]

Prior to this the line carried as much as 2 million tonnes of freight a year and hundreds of passengers a day.[8] Following the ending of the war in 1992, the slow process of removing landmines and unexploded ordinance from along the railway line began, in part with funding from the U.S. government.[10] The BBC reports that demining of the railway was completed in 2006.[8]

Coal developments spur line re-opening

The development of the coal deposits around Moatize and Tete of Riversdale Mining (which was later taken over by Rio Tinto) and Vale have been contingent on a substantial upgrading of export infrastructure. Riversdale's stage 1 Benga coal mine plans on exporting coal via the reopening of the Sena railway line from Moatize to the port of Beira and an upgrading of the port facilities.

The redevelopment of the 665 kilometre long Sena railway line was part-funded by a World Bank loan of $104.5 million, "with another $45 million under consideration" according to a 2009 report. A transport adviser to the World Bank, Jose Chembeze, told Reuters that the Biera port could handle approximately 12 to 15 million tonnes of coal per annum (Mtpa) per annum. Chembeze stated that a further upgrade of the railway to allow it to handle 12 million tonnes of coal a year were under consideration and that this would cost an additional $250-280 million.[11]

In an investor presentation in July 2010 Riversdale stated that the "Mozambique Government is planning for a new Beira coal terminal with 18-24 mtpa of new capacity to be constructed (additional to refurbished capacity)". The company states that the expansion of Benga would be timed to co-incide with this. Further expansion of coal exports from the Moatize area, the company flags, could require "double tracking, passing loops, signalling & bridge upgrade" on the Sena railway line.[12] (At the time Riversdale was investigating the option of barging its coal down the Zambezi River as an alternative to relying on the railway.[13]

An earlier report cited Mozambique’s Transport Minister Paulo Zucula stating that the government had secured $500m from the Dutch government and the European Union to to build a new railway line from Moatize to the deep-water Nacala port by 2015.[14]

Articles and resources


  1. Irma Venter, "Mozambique’s 5Mt/y Sena coal line requires 30 locos, 600 wagons", Engineering News, June 23, 2010.
  2. "Sena railway, Mozambique, ready to receive more cargo", Macauhub, July 11, 2016.
  3. Agnieszka Flak and Marina Lopes, "Poor railways, ports put brake on Mozambique's coal rush", Reuters, April 16, 2013.
  4. "Mozambique's Renamo threatens to paralyse coal export line", Reuters, June 19, 2013.
  5. William Felimao, "Mozambique’s Renamo Threatens Rail Line Used by Rio, Vale", Bloomberg, June 19, 2013.
  6. "Rio suspends Mozambique coal exports over security fears", Reuters, June 26, 2013.
  7. Rio Tinto, "Rio Tinto agrees sale of coal assets in Mozambique", Media Release, July 30, 2014.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Mozambique railway mines cleared", BBC, October 18, 2006.
  9. U.S. Department of State, "Background Note: Mozambique", U.S. Department of State, November 5, 2010.
  10. International Campaign to Ban Landmines, "Landmine monitor report 2002: toward a mine-free world", International Campaign to Ban Landmines, page 354.
  11. "Mozambique coal rail line ready 2010-World Bank", Reuters, April 21, 2009.
  12. Steve Mallyon (Managing Director), "Investor Presentation", Maputpo, July 2010, page 22.
  13. Steve Mallyon (Managing Director), "Investor Presentation", Maputpo, July 2010, page 23.
  14. "Mozambique To Build New Coal Railway Line To Ship Coal Mine From Moatize Mines To Nacala Port", Mining Exploration News, October 6, 2009.

Related articles

External resources

  • CCFB, "Beira Rail Concession", Workshop on Large Project Finance, Maputo, Mozambique, February 7, 2008. (Powerpoint Presentation).

External articles

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