The Vale deal entails upgrading the line from the Malawi border to Nacala, and building a rail link to a new coal terminal at Nacala-a-Velha. The project also involves upgrading the existing line from the border to Nkaya in Malawi, and building a new 210km line from there to Malawi's western border with Mozambique where it will connect with the line to the Moatize coalfield. Mr Ricardo Saad, a director of Vale Mozambique, says he hopes the project will be completed by the second half of 2014.

Beacon Hill Resources' deal will enable it to transport up to 500,000 tonnes per year of coal on the Sena line. Thelo Rolling Stock, South Africa, will lease rolling stock to the company for 10 years. Operations are due to start in April with two rakes of 42 wagons, each hauled by a single locomotive. This will eventually be increased to five rakes of 90 wagons.

Mozambique plans to launch a tender soon for the construction of a 525km $US 2bn railway from Tete province to a new port under construction at Macuse northeast of Quelimane. The port will be able to handle 20 million tonnes of export coal a year.

CFM plans to invest $US 12bn in rail and port projects during the next five years to facilitate the export of 120 million tonnes of coal annually. CFM also wants to see the creation of an independent organisation which would determine a pricing structure for rail operators, with access to the rail network controlled by a government agency.