Bulk earthworks are wrapped up

13th December 2002 By: vanessa vasques

The bulk earthworks for the Limpopo province's next platinum smelter, Anglo Platinum's Polokwane smelter, has been completed.

The bulk earthworks includes construction of the terrace, roads, stormwater drains, sewer systems and a pollution-control dam for the new smelter, which is expected to come into operation in the first quarter of next year. Additional terraces for a distribution centre warehouse, laboratory and regional offices have also been constructed. Grinaker-LTA Earthworks South Africa was responsible for the contract which was awarded in October last year.

Another Grinaker-LTA business unit, Grinaker-LTA Civil Engineering, was also contracted to undertake the main civil works for the smelter (which will have a capacity of 650 000 t of concentrate a year).

This entailed construction of the reinforced concrete foundations, the smelter's silos (which include two 2 000 t wet-slag silos, a 2 500 t dry-concentrate silo and a 500 t coal-storage silo), a 10 000 t capacity storage bin, suspended floors, pipe rack and conveyor foundations, building work for the smelter's substations, control-rooms, stores and workshops as well as concrete paving for the roads on site.

The civil works contract was awarded to the company in December last year and Grinaker-LTA Civil Engineering contracts director Gerhard van Schalkwyk says this portion of the project is around 95% complete.

"There is only some additional work to be done on the silos and concrete roads and some small building work still to do," he explains.

Final completion of the main civil contract for the company is scheduled for March next year.

"One of the biggest challenges has been to meet the demanding construction programme set up by Anglo Platinum," Van Schalkwyk notes.

He says that, in order to meet the programme, the company had to commit major resources and manpower to the project both for the bulk earthworks and civil works undertaken.

On the main civil works portion of the contract the company had, at peak, 85 staff working on the Polokwane smelter, who were accommodated in the area in 16 houses and 15 caravans.

The company also had to construct accommodation to house more than 450 core labour personnel who were working on the project.

There were, at peak, more than a thousand hourly-paid employees working just on the civils work for the smelter.

Not only was it a major achievement bringing a workforce this size together on a project, but the fact that safety was of the utmost importance at all times resulted in outstanding safety records being achieved thus far.

On the earthworks portion of the contract more than 600 000 workhours were recorded without a single accident. The civil works portion achieved an equally impressive record by achieving more than a million accident-free workhours, with the contract currently showing a disabling injury frequency rate (DIFR) of 0,2.

This DIFR is well below industry standards and a significant achievement considering the size and fast-tracked nature of the project, adds Van Schalkwyk.

"Another feature of this contract has been the manner in which the professional team, the construction team and the client have worked together in order to achieve the demanding requirements of the contract," Van Schalkwyk says.

The function of the smelter is to turn the platinum-rich concentrate, which is received from various Anglo Platinum concentrators, into a matte and slag fraction. The product smelted at the new smelter, known as the matte, is then further refined at the ACP plant in Rustenburg. The slag from the Polokwane smelter is remilled and reconcentrated at the Lebowa platinum mine.