Transnet says it will relocate its contentious manganese ore facility in 2027

When inhaled, manganese ore dust can lead to development of health complications.

When inhaled, manganese ore dust can lead to development of health complications. Getty Images/File

  • Transnet said it will relocate the manganese ore facility from Gqeberha to the Port of Ngqurha in 2027. 
  • For years there have been complaints that the black manganese dust pose health hazard to people living in nearby residential areas near the harbour. 
  • Manganese is transported to Gqeberha by both rail and trucks from Northern Cape mines and is stockpiled in Swartskop and Markman before it is loaded into ships.  

After years of lodging complaints about a health hazard posed by the manganese ore industry in Gqeberha, Transnet has announced it will relocate the manganese ore facility from the city’s harbour to the Port of Ngqurgha outside the town in 2027.

For years, political parties, businesses and communities complained that the manganese facility, located inside the Port of Gqeberha, was a health hazard, with the fine, black manganese dust regularly settling over the nearby residential and commercial areas.

When inhaled, manganese ore dust can lead to development of health complications.

Exposure to manganese dust or fumes can also lead to a neurological condition called manganism, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Due to limited capacity Port of Gqeberha, the product is stockpiled at the port, the Markman industrial area, and Swartkops.

Concerned groups have previously said the high traffic volume of overloaded trucks, which often carry uncovered manganese ore from Markman to the harbour, have a devastating impact on the city’s roads.

On Tuesday, Transnet spokesperson Ayanda Shezi confirmed plans were already under way to work towards the achieving the goal of relocating the facility.

“The relocation project is on track. Delays over the years had been due to various challenges including acquiring the required approvals. All these have now been resolved,” said Shezi.

She said Transnet had already appointed Coega Development Corporation to provide implementing agency services on the development of the new Manganese Terminal at the Port of Ngqura.

It is anticipated that the construction activities will be completed by 2026, with operations set to commence by mid-July, 2027, subject to the Environmental Impact Assessment Amendment process, added Shezi.

She also distanced the company from trucks that are accused of destroying the road.

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She said the manganese ore handled by Transnet was transported by rail from Northern Cape mines to the facility located inside the Port of Port Elizabeth, where it is stored before being loaded on ships for export.

The ore is brought to the coast by a combination of rail and road transportation.

“[The] manganese in trucks is handled by private operators who have independent and separate agreements with both regional and local government authorities,” said Shezi.

South Africa is the world’s largest producer of manganese ore and the Northern Cape has a tremendous amount of it.

Shezi added that the Port Elizabeth Bulk Terminal has capacity to handle five million tons of manganese annually – with an accompanying air emissions licence to operate, which it complies with.

Commenting on the issue of the safety of workers exposed to the product, Shezi said Transnet employs a rigorous pollution monitoring and mitigation regime that complies with relevant legislation applicable to similar operations of this nature.

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She said the company regularly monitors air quality to ensure it does not exceed the mandatory pollutant thresholds.

In terms of its employees, Shezi said investment in employee wellness, health and safety at Transnet has ensured that risk profiling of every existing role across the business is built into the operational model.

She added that employees working in the bulk handling of manganese specifically undergo regular biological monitoring to assess exposure.

In addition, the business undertakes regular audits to adhere to legal requirements, Shezi added.

She said compliance includes applying standard operating procedures as well as the controls in place to minimise exposure.

Shezi added that all employees are equipped with appropriate protective personal equipment and subjected to regular medical assessments as part of the onsite health programmes.

The programmes also ensure ongoing training of employees to ensure a healthy and informed workforce, she said.