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Adventures in the Andes: Part One

Published by
World Cement,

When it comes to the Andes of South America, it's not hard to imagine the challenges of raw material storage. High winds kick up dust, punishing snow loads blanket the region, and torturous slopes render conventional construction methods useless. What's a stockpile operator to do?

Over the decades, mining and cement manufacturers have come to know and trust Geometrica. Thanks to the versatility of Freedome® technology, dozens of Geometrica domes and barrel vaults have been installed at various elevations in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and other regions of the Andes. Traditional post and beam structures may be impossible to build in these rugged environments, but Geometrica's unique trademarked system is ideal for projects that can soar in altitudes of more than 14 000 ft (4267m). The column-free space is unique in that it allows the transfer of moments across the joint.

Whimsical Design Over Uneven Stockyards

No matter how high up on a mountainside the structure may sit, Freedomes remain today's premier eco-friendly means to enclose stockpiles. The raw bulk, itself, may lie within a sprawling and irregular yard, yet Freedome technology allows for the design of whimsical, oddly shaped domes on any terrain. The barrier-free interior allows the free-flow of traffic, personnel, vehicles, conveyers and other equipment — often while the pile is in operation. This equates to zero downtime and enables manufacturers to continue production while the storage solutions are being constructed. Following are just a few projects that exemplify domes and vaults in the Andes today.

While Chile is known for wine production and copper mining, the two industries haven't always "mixed." 30km southeast of Copiapó City are grape plantations and families who work in the vineyards and mines. When dust from ore handling and crushing affected the landscape and crops, it was time to cover the plant and completely enclose the crushing operations. The free-style dome at Planta Cerrillos was the perfect solution for the sprawling stockpile, surrounding equipment and conveyors. In the main area, a 90m Freedome encompassed more than 5000 m2 in a shape that was irregular after several expansions over the years. Two circular domes (30m and 40m) were also built to control dust and emissions, proving that industry and nature can coexist.

Geometrica designs and builds customised covers for ring stockpiles, conical piles and homogenous longitudinal beds of all dimensions in the Andes. Out of this demand for bulk storage came the evolution of next generation clear-span design. Innovative thinking, rigorous research and advanced technology have led to the installation of fully clad latticed shell monuments that can be built directly over any variety of stockpile, while often weighing one third of a comparably-sized conventional steel structure.

El Brocal

The El Brocal project exemplifies strength and beauty high in the central-western Peruvian Andes. Peru's largest publicly traded precious metals mining company was committed to preserving the environment while envisioning a new copper ore storage building in Cerro de Pasco. Geometrica designed a longitudinal storage structure with a span of 58m to cover the ore and conveyor equipment. Even in the constrained space, El Brocal management mandated that construction take place with minimal interruption to its operations. Geometrica was able to complete the project without a loss of production.

Geometrica structures take advantage of 3-dimensional structural behaviour. They are built of lightweight prefabricated tubing in galvanised steel or aluminium. Each dome or barrel vault is custom designed in Geometrica's computer-based manufacturing facilities. Then each tubular member is bar-coded, containerised, shipped and connected on site with patented aluminium hubs. These structures are incredibly strong and versatile, and the system is designed to withstand whatever climate challenges the region has in store. Whipping winds, snow flurries, white-knuckle slopes and hazardous bulk are no match for a Freedome®.

San Cristobal

This open-pit silver, lead and zinc mine requires the transportation of 150 000 t of rock and the processing of 40 000 t of mineral daily in Bolivia. When the mine needed additional zinc storage, Geometrica designed and built a 142m circular dome — the largest of it's kind in Bolivia.

San Cristobal is located more than 4000 meters above sea level in the Altiplano of the Andes Mountains. Production requires the transportation of 150 000 t of rock and the processing of 40 000 t of mineral daily, requiring robust infrastructure. More than 88 000 galvanised steel tubes and 30 000 aluminium hubs form the domes, shipments of which consisted of containerised crates of parts.

The Geometrica system requires no welding, as the prefabricated tubes slide easily into the aluminium hubs and hold fast. The precise yet simple assembly process allowed the mine to continue to operate in the midst of dome construction and made it easier to assemble the building in an environment subject to high winds. Read more about the dome here.

Click here to read part two of this two part special report.

Adapted from press release by Joseph Green

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