Saldanha: from steel mill to millstone
Grand plans ground down to limping along on life support
At first there was talk of a pipeline to carry iron ore concentrate from the Sishen mine in the far Northern Cape all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. This was more than half a century ago and then, just as now, water was a scarce commodity, so sending a slurry of concentrate hundreds of kilometres to a harbour was a pipe dream.
Next came the plan to build an 850km railway line from the rich iron ore deposits - owned at the time by Iscor - to Saldanha Bay on the West Coast. This meant a commitment of hundreds of millions of rands, but it seemed a good bet as Japan's steel industry was eager to buy SA's ore.