Railway between Senegal and Mali (Photo: John Stubbs).

SENEGAL: The Ministry of Infrastructure has opened negotiations with a view to building a rail link to carry iron ore from deposits located near the headwaters of the River Falémé in the far southeast of the country, close to the border with Mali.

Ousmane Cissé, who was appointed CEO of Société des Mines du Sénégal last December, said in March that talks were in progress with an unnamed contractor aimed at establishing a public-private partnership to build the line to tap the iron ore deposits. Estimates dating from the mid-2000s indicate that these may contain up to 750 million tonnes of reserves.

The line could form a branch off the currently disused 1 000 mm gauge line from Dakar to Bamako in Mali, but a proposal involving ArcelorMittal dating from around 2008 envisaged a 750 km link from the mines to a new port near Dakar.

Were the existing metre gauge line to be used, extensive renovation work would be required. Rehabilitation of this once important international link is the stated policy of the Senegal government, and the World Bank estimated in 2018 that the work would require investment of around US$830m.

Plans envisaged that the Bank would contribute finance worth $US600m. The agreement was due to have been ratified by May this year, but it is likely to be later than that because of delays relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last November a Canadian delegation visited Dakar Bamako Ferroviaire in Dakar to discuss possible rehabilitation work, and in January this year the Bank published a closed tender in Mali seeking consultants to assist with studies for rehabilitation of the Dakar – Bamako Intermodal Corridor Project.

This move was followed in February by Société des Nationale Chemins de Fer du Sénégal contracting with Traxtion Group to lease five refurbished main line diesel locomotives and one shunting loco for use on the line.