Sishen mine is Kumba Iron Ore’s flagship operation and one of the world’s largest open pits. (Image courtesy of Kumba Iron Ore)

A rail line linking South Africa’s iron ore hub in the Northern Cape province to the west coast has reopened after the theft of power cables forced its temporary closure.

The 861-kilometer (535-mile) line that’s used to haul iron ore and manganese from Kumba Iron Ore Ltd.’s giant Sishen mine and other operations in the province to the port of Saldanha reopened on Wednesday night, Sinah Phochana, a spokeswoman for the mining company, said in an emailed statement. It was briefly shut after the theft of 11 spans of wire triggered a power failure on Tuesday, according to Transnet SOC Ltd., the state-owned entity that operates the line.

The impact of the closure “was not material,” Phochana said.

The route is the second crucial corridor to be hit by theft in the past month. In the week ended May 21, a corridor that runs from the Port of Durban on the east coast to the City Deep station in downtown Johannesburg operated at just 25% capacity after overhead power lines that keep the trains running were severed.

Vandalism on the corridors compounds other problems that Transnet is grappling with, including a shortage of locomotive spare parts on its network that moves coal. Earlier this year, Transnet rejected Kumba’s overture to take over the running of the iron ore rail line, which is one of its most profitable but battles to move sufficient volumes.

(By Monique Vanek and Paul Burkhardt)

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