The Quellaveco aqueduct makes its way through mountains and deep snow
Beyond the adverse weather conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic, work at the Quellaveco mine continues at a steady pace.
In the southern Peruvian department of Moquegua, at more than 4,000 meters above sea level, the scenery is dominated by the rocky crags and snow-capped peaks of the Andes, and temperatures can range from 14ºC during the day to -10ºC at night. This how we are building an 87 kilometer-long pipeline to transport water from the Titire River to the Quellaveco mining project.
In addition to the challenges of the work itself, there are often problems with adverse weather events that can come out of nowhere: "In addition to the swings in temperature, we often get electrical storms which means we have to stop work and take cover, leading to delays in the work program," says the Project Manager Marcio Carvalho. He adds that "also, this project is being developed at an average altitude of 4,400 meters above sea level, which has a major effect on productivity, affecting both equipment and people."
The Quellaveco aqueduct will measure 87 kilometers in length: some 29 km of these will carry 28” pipes, and the remaining 58 km will bear 24" pipes. Currently, the project is at the pipe welding phase, where the team is applying the semi-automatic process based on Surface Tension Transfer (STT). “We thought very carefully before deciding to use this process as we knew there was a need for higher quality standards in internal welding completion. The finish this system provides is key because it includes coating the field joints internally with a special epoxy-type material,” explains Adrian Romagnoli, pipeline Construction Manager.
The crews were organized into cells or pods given the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, to protect employee health and safety: “These are closed working groups, whether by discipline or by phase. They all travel on the same bus, work in the same place, eat on the same dining shift, and share the same accommodation. This means that one cell never crosses paths with another, and we can protect the health of each group,” explains Andres Teves, responsible for QHSE at the project.
There are several obligatory measures that have been defined by QHSE in this context, in particular the mandatory and permanent use of respiratory protection which must be kept in good condition for all personnel. People must also use face shields when the 2-meter social distancing measure cannot be respected due to the type of tasks being carried out. Then there are rigorous, regular and frequent routines to ensure the order, cleaning and daily disinfection of all equipment, vehicles, tools, and common spaces such as dining rooms and chemical toilets.
In the coming months, the team will move on to special parts of the project involving work in wetlands, under crossroads, and over rivers - as well as lowering and covering the pipeline itself.