Transnet confirms bulk terminals closure to minerals amid South Africa lockdown

South African state transport operator Transnet has confirmed that all the country’s bulk terminals will be closed to minerals shipments under a three-week government-ordered lockdown amid the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) pandemic.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lockdown on the evening of Monday March 23, stating it will run from midnight on March 26 until April 17.

The bulk terminals will close to “mineral mining commodities” from 22:00 on March 26 until 06:00 on April 17, with the exception of essential services including grains, soya bean meal, fertilizer and wood chips, Transnet said in a notice to miners seen by Fastmarkets. 

Mining companies held emergency meetings across South Africa this morning and sources have been predicting a spate of force majeure declarations.

“Declarations of force majeure will probably be issued tomorrow when Transnet gives us the letters,” a mining source told Fastmarkets.

A number of companies have been waiting for clarity on which products would be deemed essential and whether loading already started would be allowed to be completed.

“To declare force majeure you need official correspondence from a provider like Transnet. What people were waiting for was if the ports were going to continue loading what they had started and it looks like they will not beyond the deadline,” a second mining source told Fastmarkets.

Fears had been growing since last week that the metals, mining and alloy-producing sectors in South Africa, which analysts estimate accounts for 70%, 60% and 35% of platinum, chrome and manganese production respectively, could be hit by the virus.