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Standing tall alongside great mining challenges in Chile

Published 29.11.2023

At the end of October 2023, the Canadian mining company Teck inaugurated the second phase of the Quebrada Blanca (QB2) mining operation, its biggest copper mine—and its largest investment in recent years in Chile.

 

The inauguration of the second operational phase of Quebrada Blanca took place at the end of October, at the mine lying over 4,400 meters above sea level, some 240 kilometers from Iquique in the Tarapacá Region. The event took place in the new Maritime Terminal and was attended by the President of Chile, Gabriel Boric, the Teck board of directors, and regional and local authorities, as well as contractors and suppliers involved in achieving this milestone in Chilean mining. Attending on behalf of Techint Engineering & Construction was Claudio Perillo, President of the Andean Region.

During the event, Teck CEO Jonathan Price stated that, “QB’s expansion was made possible by a large number of talented and dedicated people who worked hard to build one of the world’s most innovative and sustainable copper mines in northern Chile.”

“We want to acknowledge the commitment and efforts of the 30,000 people who were involved in all the work to build QB2, and the many institutions, organizations and people with whom we work to create emblematic programs, promote employability and develop local suppliers,” said Amparo Cornejo, Vice President of South America at Teck.

Claudio Perillo added that, “In April, we were given the Provisional Acceptance Certificate, so today, being able to relive everything that QB2 meant to us in this ceremony was very emotional. Each image of what we achieved brought with it a whole cascade of memories of all the challenges we faced. When we are in the throes of executing a project, without realizing it, we tend to lose sight of what we are doing. QB2 left us with many lessons learned, and strengthened us as main contractors in the large pipeline market in Chile, endorsed by the completion of two major projects, one to pump desalinated water for the Compañía Minera Doñá Inés de Collahuasi, known as the C20+ project, and the other to provide desalinated water to the northern district, (SADDN). Both projects raise us to another level as a company because of their size and complexity.”

Jorge Donoso, Senior Project Manager of Techint E&C in Chile said that, “QB2 is a resounding recognition of our experience and ratifies our position as a competitive and trustworthy construction company for the main customers in this segment. It means that working with Techint is the assurance that projects will come to fruition, something that fills us with pride,” said.

The key role played by Techint E&C

Techint E&C was responsible for building, laying and testing 165 km of 36” steel pipe for the makeup water-transport system (MWS) and 165 km of steel pipe with internal liners of 6” and 8” HDPE for the concentrate transportation system (CTS). These pipelines were necessary for the expansion of the Quebrada Blanca copper mining operation, enabling it to process an additional 140,000 tons of ore per day.

The project was undertaken at a high altitude in the mountain range sections and in hostile weather conditions in the desert sections. This was compounded by the challenging nature of the high-level contractual administration, where the demanding environmental and community commitments required by the customer were a complex challenge for everyone involved.

Following the successful completion of the works, Techint E&C was awarded a distinction from the Safety Council for Excellence in Pipeline Execution, which undoubtedly reinforced the sense that the high demands of such a complex project had been well and truly met.

Closure and balance

When a project ends, the learnings remain, as described by Martín Jimenez, the Project Manager at QB2 who is now working as the Senior Manager of the Drive System at the SADDN. “Personally, it was incredibly challenging because I wasn’t starting from the beginning, but joining a project that was already underway. There were several obstacles to be overcome, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Something very important that we worked on with the team was managing people’s motivation levels. We were used to having everything under control and this was quite the opposite. But we pulled it off, and finished the project on time. And along the way, we learned many new things.”

In numbers

  • 2 parallel pipelines
    • MWS measuring 165 km in length with a diameter of 36”
    • 165 km concentrate system with 6” and 8” liners
  • 2,000 employees at peak of work
  • 48 months in duration

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