QMM ilmenite project

The logistically challenging QMM ilmenite
project in Madagascar won a 2009 Steel
Award. QMM’s ilmenite project.

Fort Dauphin, on the south-east coast of Madagacar, is a challenging location for any construction project let alone the construction of a massive, complex ilmenite extraction plant.

“The discipline of this project team in conjuction with its ability to succesfully complete a project of this nature in a remote area where even the purchase of a small screwdriver is difficult, contributed to this project being a clear winner,” the judges said when announcing the Rio Tinto QMM ilmenite project the Export Category winner at Steel Awards 2009.

The judges added that the South African structural steel industry can be proud of the fact that it has the type of expertise in its ranks that was able not only to fabricate this sophisticated super-structure locally from South African steel, paint it, have it quality assured, document it for export and ship it to Madagascar, but also then was able to erect it under extreme conditions.

Fort Dauphin is a significantly underdeveloped location where availability of reliable services for power, roads, water and communications were all but absent, dramatically increasing the project logistics requirements.

In addition, great care had to be taken of this area’s sensitive ecology. As such, the protection of the island’s unique fauna and flora were as much a priority for the project as the usual elements like health and safety.

Despite these challenges and periodic cyclones from the Indian Ocean, the project logged a world class safety performance with 12 million hours worked without a lost time injury.

The wet plant was built on special pontoons which, because of schedule demands, were sourced from China. Due to the rudimentary port loading facilities in Fort Dauphin, the pontoons were shipped to Tamatave and then transferred to barges. Sixteen 7.8 m wide by 3.7 m high by 21 m long pontoon modules were barged 700 km south in four trips.

Upon arrival in Fort Dauphin, the colossal pontoon modules were hydraulically jacked from the barge and loaded onto trucks with 10-axle steerable dolly trailers.

The pontoons and all steel and other equipment were set in position and welded together or installed on site by Kentz Engineers and Constructors. A Louwill/A. Leita joint venture was responsible for the fabrication of the structural steel.

The 65 m long by 40 m wide wet plant is built on the pontoons. It towers above its surroundings to a height of 33 m at its highest point and is anchored against severe wind conditions by four large winches at its corners which also provide the plant with manoeuvrability in the extraction pond. The plant includes a 50 tonne crane above the equipment for access and extraction during maintenance exercises. Four 12 tonne cranes are also located around the plant for pump and equipment maintenance with the advantage of being able to crane equipment directly to an adjacent barge.

The plant boasts the following material tonnages: pontoon mass 1,888 tonnes, structural steelwork 1,582 tonnes, equipment 1,347 tonnes, material and water 2,800 tonnes giving the plant a total mass of 7,617 tonnes under normal operating conditions.

Project Details
Developer/ Owner: QMM (A Subsidiary of Rio Tinto)
Structural Engineer: Hatch Africa (Pty) Ltd
Quantity Surveyor: PCC (Pty) Ltd
Main Contractor: Kentz Engineers and Constructors
Steelwork Contractor: Louwill Engineering/ A.Leita JV

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