Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|August 17, 2022|5 Minutes|In Billionaire Tomorrow

Billionaire Tomorrow

How to get a fortune rolling.

Mining billionaire Tim Tebeila has been many things in his eventful life: teacher; insurance salesman; apple seller; coal miner and now a railway operator at the cost of $30 million.

You could argue mining billionaire Tim Tebeila has made money from the sound of moving wheels for a large part of his life.

In the 1980s – when Tebeila was a starving young teacher – one of his first money making hustles was born on the move.

The young Tebeila spotted an opportunity on the 100 KM bus trip from his home in South Africa’s northern Limpopo province to his teaching job in Pretoria.

“As a teacher the first three months into the job you didn’t get a salary, so, to survive I sold bus tickets,” he told Billionaire Tomorrow.

Tebeila would buy five cheap weekly tickets and sell them to boarding passengers along the way.

“When they got on the bus, I was there to sell them a R20 ticket for R15. When they alight, I would be there to collect my tickets to sell them again. I always knew I was going to make a good R30 in the morning before arriving at school,” he recalled with a chuckle.

“I entered in the business of selling those tickets to earn income of R800 Rands-a-month

it was quite a lot of income I can tell you.”

More than 40 years later, Tebeila has amassed a fortune in mining – with coal iron ore, and manganese – and plans to make bigger money from turning wheels. This time it is the grinding wheels of locomotives and wagons that will make him money.

Tebeila is trying to increase the capacity of logistics to help keep his iron ore and manganese mine in Postmasburg in the Northern Cape,  in touch with the lucrative export market. He says the iron ore price has dropped in a recent months but the manganese price is good, which means the mine wants to increase production and secure delivery.

“Logistics is a big problem., so what we want to do is build our own private rail and have our own locomotives. Our plan is to move 300,000 tonnes per month to COEGA or Saldanha Bay, “ he says.

Tebeila says his company is going to spend $30 million on an 80km link line and 200 wagons plus locomotives to speed his iron ore and manganese to the export ports on their way to lucrative markets in the United Kingdom and India. He says it will take a mere six months.

“It helps us that there is something there already where we want to put the track; so, it is not going to be like you have to cut the bush down and build it, “ he says.

“Transnet (South Africa’s transport umbrella ) is not as financially as strong as before, so they end up not meeting all the requirements of the mining companies. So, that is why private-public partnership is coming into play whereby we meet each other halfway.

It is part of the business. It sounds like it is easy, but it is not easy, as such, it comes with a lot of hard work, it comes with a lot of challenges and a lot of disappointments.”

A dearth of power is also a headache for South African mining and Tebeila’s empire is no different, yet he is optimistic and pragmatic.

“The President addressed the country a few weeks ago and is applying for the energy programs. He is saying if you want to build your own power plant you can do that. So now the mining houses have an opportunity to build their own plant. We are currently getting our power from independent power producers and we will look at maybe building our own plant in the future.”

Another foresight from an entrepreneur who has spent a lifetime turning pennies from turning wheels to create a fast-moving fortune that shows no signs of hitting the buffers anytime soon.