The Democratic Republic of Congo has begun a five-year, $US600 million renovation of rail lines totalling some 700km in the south-east of the country, according to minister of mines Martin Kabwelulu, who is also interim transport minister. The project is funded jointly by the World Bank and the government, and $200 million is being contributed from a minerals-for- infrastructure agreement with China signed in 2009. More than 4,000 employees will take retirement as part of the restructuring China is to provide rolling stock and track to Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Congolais (SNCC – the state railway), currently managed by Belgium’s Vecturis SA. SNCC posted a $50 million loss in 2010, but deputy director Norbert Lubanda Luesu expects the company to break even by 2013.
The government is talking to some 22 mining companies with a view to partnerships with SNCC in refurbishing lines elsewhere in the DRC, and the construction of new routes to carry export minerals, Copper is currently carried more than 3,500km by road to the port of Durban in South Africa, a journey that takes three weeks.