Glencore (Falconbridge) Raglan Mine
The stakes were high for the development of Falconbridge's Raglan mine in northern Quebec. The property was proven to contain one of the best undeveloped nickel-copper deposits in the world, but the harsh environment, and remote location of the site presented an incredible range of physical challenges and logistical issues that would require a $400 million investment and many innovative measures to overcome.
The biggest obstacle was that construction could only occur at the site within a short four-month window each year. To work around this, the site was prepared in stages of intense construction over three northern summers, with the majority of the facilities being preassembled as modules in the south, then barged up and pieced together.
Completed in 1998 (three months ahead of the original schedule), the concentrator at the mine annually turns 800,000 tonnes of excavated ore into 130,000 tones of high-grade nickel/copper concentrate. The concentrate is then trucked 60 miles to port facilities (constructed as part of the project), where ships haul the concentrate south to Quebec City, and trains take it on to smelters in central Ontario.
Every year the mine produces approximately 21,000 metric tons of nickel, 5,000 metric tons of copper, 200 metric tons of cobalt, plus varying levels of platinum metals.
Timing is Everything
Bechtel hired Supermetal for the fabrication and erection of the concentrator and power plant facilities. Because of the short construction window at the northern mine site, Bechtel created an elaborate plan for developing the facilities with pre-assembled modules. The steel for the twelve modules, was fabricated at our St. Romuald plant near Quebec City, and immediately taken to a nearby dock. Supermetal assembled the ten to twelve-story high modules in a staging area that was roughly the size of two city blocks.
Fabrication and erection schedules on this project were extremely rigorous, and all parties involved in the development were required to work with perfect timing. Ice in the receiving harbor up north meant that the ships could not leave too early, while a short window for final assembly at the site meant that no piece of the project could be delivered even a little late.
Big Rewards from Hard Work
Completed on time, and perfectly assembled for shipping, the modules - each weighing several hundred tonnes - were inched from the staging area onto waiting barges. Three ships, each took four of the huge modules on its decks and began the 2,600 nautical miles journey to the mine's remote northern location.
The modules were put ashore onto a dock built specially for the project and road hauled to the mine site, where Supermetal completed the intricate assembly process.