M&D Construction Group’s Civil Engineering Division played a large role in assisting Vedanta Zinc International (VZI) and its engineer, procure, construct contractor (EPC), ELB Engineering services, to deliver Gamsberg’s concentrator in an extremely short timeframe to ensure the timely supply of a high global demand for zinc.The Gamsberg project is located near Aggeneys and is part of the South African zinc grouping’s Black Mountain Mining (BMM) operations in the Northern Cape. It will exploit one of the largest known, undeveloped orebodies in the world, mining 4 Mt of ore annually from an open pit and producing 250,000 t of zinc-in-concentrate a year at the new concentrator plant during the first phase of operations.The division mobilised to site in October 2017 and completed the civils component of the work scope, including the flotation plant, as well as infrastructure in the milling zone and the thickener area, comprising the tailings, as well as the zinc and lead thickener, at the end of September this year.“We grew our team from only 60 people in the initial phases of the works programme to about 300 when the project peaked to complete the concentrator infrastructure in such a short period. Moreover, we had to extend working hours, which were well within the parameters of the Mine Health & Safety Act, as well as our own strict safety policies and those of VZI and ELB Engineering,” Gawie van der Merwe, Senior Contract Manager of M&D Construction Group, says.A further challenge was closely co-ordinating the civil aspects with the many other construction activities on this multi-disciplinary project. Moreover, the various contractors had to implement additional measures to ensure the health and safety of their staff working in this confined space and to very tight deadlines.He attributes much of the success of the civil works to active participation by both the EPC and client, while noting that their decision to introduce incentives to motivate and boost the morale of the many workers also greatly assisted the Civil Engineering Division meet all milestone dates.Meanwhile, M&D is forging ahead with the various roads that will serve this operation. M&D Construction Group’s Roads & Earthworks Division was awarded the contract to construct the external roads in mid-December and it commenced work on this eight month project in February 2018. The contract was extended in August this year to also include the construction of the internal plant roads and, thereby, increasing its value by 47%. It includes the construction of the access roads and parking from the N14 highway between Pofadder and Aggeneys to the entrance of the mine. This is in addition to various roads and parking areas along the perimeter of and within the plant area.Led by Angelo Veli, the Roads & Earthworks team on site comprises about 60 people, including administrative staff and local labour, as well as those men and women from sub-contracting teams. Head of the division, Chris Porter, says that he is extremely impressed with the progress made by his team, considering the numerous challenges, not least of which is the extreme remoteness of this construction site.“It is located about 1,000 km from our home base and just under 300 km from Upington, the closest major urban centre in the province. Careful logistical planning is, therefore, required to ensure that the project proceeds according to schedule,” Porter says.Meanwhile, the close proximity of the construction works to an environmentally-sensitive area adds another level of complexity to the project. Similar to the concentrator construction programme, close coordination is essential among the many contractors that are all working to tight deadlines on this busy construction site.“The Roads & Earthworks team demonstrated its ability to think on its feet when it was discovered that materials from the various borrow pits for the road layer works did not meet the engineering design specification once construction had commenced. Porter and his team, therefore, proposed a mechanically-blended solution incorporating commercial aggregates, which are sourced from Aroams quarry, located about 7 km from the construction site.”He says that three road surfaces have been specified for this project: a Cape Seal is being used on mostly straight sections and a 200 mm thick fibre-reinforced concrete for the heavy-duty access roadways, while an 80 mm-thick interlocking paving is being deployed in the plant areas. By the time the Roads & Earthworks division has completed the project, it will have undertaken 101,000 m³ of bulk earthworks, and constructed 30,600 m³ of layer works, 12,500 m2 of Cape Seal surfacing, 14,900 m2 of inter-locking paving and 13,500 m of kerbing.In addition 8,850 m³ of concrete roadway is being produced from an M&D Construction Group-owned batch plant on site to ease logistics on this project. It achieved the daily production requirement of up to 200 m³ of 35 MPa concrete, which is transported to the various construction faces using the company’s own three mixer trucks.The teams on site were fully supported by the M&D Plant Division, which is providing most of the plant and equipment needed to complete the works and at a high availability level. Rukesh Raghubir, CEO of M&D Construction Group, says that he is proud of the company’s involvement in a project that has also supported so many local businesses and entrepreneurs in the area during the construction cycle.“BMM/Vedanta’s operations have already created livelihoods for about 1,500 people, while a further 750 people will be directly and indirectly employed by Gamsberg. This is over-and-above the many employment opportunities that have been created during the construction of this state-of-the-art mine. Gamsberg again demonstrates the critical role that this ‘sunrise’ industry has to play in socio-economic upliftment. Certainly, we are very proud to be involved in yet another successful mining-related project. Gamsberg will be BMM/Vedanta’s flagship project as one of the most digitally-advanced mines in Africa that embraces innovative technologies and new methods of working,” Raghubir concludes.