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Transnet says manganese terminal at PE Harbour poses no health risk, will still relocate it to Ngqura by end of 2023

Jan 12, 2018
Transnet says manganese terminal at PE Harbour poses no health risk, will still relocate it to Ngqura by end of 2023

Transnet has confirmed that its manganese export facility at the Port of Port Elizabeth will be transferred to the neighbouring Port of Ngqura by October 2023, where the commodity will continue to serve as an important catalyst for economic growth and development.

Nelson Mandela Bay is South Africa’s primary export corridor for manganese mined in the Northern Cape and exported across the globe.

During a site visit on Thursday, Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor, Athol Trollip, said the municipality would continue to cooperate with Transnet to attract greater manganese export volumes through Ngqura, while minimising potential negative impacts on livelihoods and convenience of the community.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality called on Transnet to fast-track the relocation of bulk fuel storage and ore export facilities at the Port Elizabeth Habour.

Responding to recent public concern over manganese dust emissions, Port of Port Elizabeth Manager, Rajesh Dana, outlined a manganese management five-point plan formulated by Transnet SOC LTD.

“We do not dispute the fact that our manganese operation in Port of Port Elizabeth creates an inconvenience to port tenants and residents.

"However, as a responsible corporate citizen we have superior operational and compliance controls in place to mitigate these negative impacts. Our independent scientific data confirms that the current operations do not pose any medical harm to the health of employees and residents,” he said.

Dana said the five-point plan would include the following:

  • Reviewing controls with particular emphasis on dust suppression systems.  
  • The continued analysis and collation of data relating to air emissions and environmental impacts thereof, with appropriate remediation action.
  • The establishment of a Hotline to register any public concerns around manganese, which Transnet will use to improve its operations. The telephone number is (041) 507 1910.
  • Monthly meetings with manganese operators will continue to ensure the safe, secure and efficient export, and
  • Quarterly public engagements with key stakeholders will be held to share information transparently.

Dana said that Transnet would also continue to employ innovative technologies, seeking guidance from the International Manganese Institute to ensure its operations remained safe and efficient.

According to Dr Martin Prinsloo, a service provider of Transnet: “Transnet has a biological monitoring programme in place where blood samples are drawn from exposed persons on a regular basis and sent to an independent medical laboratory.

"Results have confirmed that not a single case of toxicology/poisoning was ever recorded in the Port of PE. The manganese ore in the port does not pose a health risk when managed responsibly like Transnet is currently doing.”

He added: “Manganese should not be perceived as a poison. It is an essential element in the human body. If a person’s manganese levels are too low, it needs to be supplemented. If too high, it can lead to neurological problems, not respiratory problems. For a healthy body, the balance must be right,” said Dr Prinsloo.

While the total annual throughput capacity of the Bulk Ore Terminal at the Port Elizabeth plant is 5.1 million tons, no more than 250,000 tons of manganese ore is stockpiled at the terminal at any given time.

TNPA remains sensitive to the concerns of the community and is constantly assessing methods to improve handling operations with minimal impact on the community and the environment.

Manganese is an important contributor to the national economy including the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, creating large-scale employment and contributing significantly to foreign exchange earnings for South Africa’s development.