As part of our mandate on the Ambatovy nickel mining project, we created a customized Local Resource Development Initiative™ to teach essential trades to 6,100 local workers.
Situated in Madagascar, Ambatovy is one of the largest mines and integrated metallurgical sites in the world, with an annual capacity of 60,000 tonnes of nickel and 5,600 tonnes of cobalt. We were asked to provide full engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) services for the ore preparation plant, slurry transfer pumping plant, 220-kilometre slurry pipeline, process plant and refinery (including all associated utilities), tailings management facilities, access infrastructure and port facility upgrades.
A historic mega-project
The Ambatovy nickel project is the most ambitious and complex industrial undertaking in the region’s history. Because of its size, scope, remote location and technical design, we had to implement special measures to make sure the project was managed effectively. We used integrated database software to coordinate international design staff, worldwide expert contractors, site contractors, site engineering and construction teams and the client’s project team. In all, over 350 purchase orders were placed, 90 construction contracts were awarded, and 5,000 pieces of mechanical equipment and thousands of tonnes of bulk materials were ordered and received.
Adding to the project’s complexity was the site’s use of high-pressure acid leaching technology. This required special considerations for handling high-pressure and high-temperature slurries, as well as elaborate safety systems, detailed processes and highly specific mechanical expertise.
Massive infrastructure upgrades
Close to the mine, we upgraded and extended existing access roads to accommodate the high traffic expected during construction and operation. At the port site, we also extended an existing jetty to receive additional cargo without hindering critical petroleum deliveries. The extension made it safer to unload potentially harmful material near food warehouses. By working closely with the offshore piling contractor and using state-of-the-art battered pile techniques, we managed to complete the upgrade without disrupting Madagascar’s busiest port.
To minimize the environmental and visual impact while improving safety, we opted to bury a 220-kilometre pipeline. Its design included just one pumping station at the mine site, eliminating exposed boosting stations and above-ground installations. Regular pipeline condition monitoring and a leak detection system will ensure continuous and safe operation for the full 30 years of the mine’s expected life.
Jobs and training for local workers
As the project’s EPCM contractor and part owner, we wanted to make sure that its development would benefit local communities and take the area’s unique ecosystems into consideration.
That’s why we introduced a Local Resource Development Initiative™ (LRDI) to offer the local workforce high-value skill training. At two facilities, workers were taught bricklaying, formwork, rebar bending, painting and welding. This was enhanced with crucial health and safety instruction. In all, more than 6,100 Malagasy took part in this unique program.
The LRDI also helped us include local businesses in the project. Small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in Madagascar were asked to register their interest in opportunities arising from the project. We helped them with tendering, works scheduling, and health, safety and environment management. Training and mentorship programs were also implemented on the premises of some SMMEs. Malagasy companies were hired for the execution of earthworks, concrete, fencing and erosion control mandates, and supplied some of the materials.
At the peak of construction, the project employed 18,500 people. Instead of importing food for them, we helped develop the local agrifood market by negotiating the establishment of poultry abattoirs, aiding in the purchase of bulk seeds, providing logistical support to transport goods to the point of sale, and developing a community-based compost manufacturing unit to improve production quality.
- Regular pipeline monitoring and a leak detection system will ensure continuous and safe operation for the mine’s 30-year lifespan.
- We helped develop a local agrifood market to feed 18,500 project workers, reducing reliance on imported goods.
- Local firms were hired for earthworks, concrete, fencing and erosion control.