The government of Tanzania, acting through Reli Assets Holding Company (RAHCO), has invited firms to bid for a feasibility study and preliminary design for the construction of a railway line from the southern port of Mtwara on the Indian Ocean to the port of Mbamba Bay on Lake Nyasa, with spurs to the Liganga and Mchuchuma iron-ore and coal deposits in the Njombe region.
The railway is part of the Mtwara Development Project, a scheme undertaken by the governments of Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia to improve transport infrastructure and promote development and cross-border integration in a region spanning the four countries (see map, page 26).
At present, Dar es Salaam in the north handles most of the port traffic for this region and the aim is to facilitate trade in southern Tanzania and the neighbouring landlocked countries. The southern region of Tanzania has high economic potential due to the discovery of mineral resources but has long been left behind in terms of infrastructure investment.
Mtwara harbour was deepened during the colonial era. In the 1940s, a railway line was built connecting the port to Nachingwea as part of the Tanganyika Groundnut Scheme, which was an attempt by the British colonial administration to cultivate peanuts on a large scale in the region. Due to the failure of the scheme the port lost trade and the railway line was closed in 1963. The port was functional but underutilised for many years due to poor transport infrastructure.
However, more recently, increased oil and gas exploration has caused a surge in operations. The 1,000km railway line will not only contribute to promoting private investment in mineral resource development (notably iron ore, coal and natural gas together with limestone and nonferrous metals such as nickel, uranium), but will also enable the utilisation of vast swathes of unused land and other natural resources.
China's Sichuan Hongda Group has set aside S300m as capital for mining iron ore in Liganga and coal in Mchuchuma in partnership with Tanzania's National Development Corporation (NDC). A recent study indicates that there are reserves of 428m tons of coal at Mchuchuma and 126111 tons of iron at Liganga and Mchuchu ma.
Developing the central railway
The Mtwara-Lake Nyasa railway project comes at time when the government is also constructing a standard gauge railway line from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma and Mwanza to replace the old central railway built by the German colonial...