MQDA Project – New Unloaders Make Grand Entrance at Port Facilities

The $105 million MQDA project will be completed by early 2023. A key part of this undertaking was the redevelopment of Powell Wharf with improvements that included dismantling part of a warehouse, renovating the vessel berthing infrastructure, and adding a new alumina unloading system.

Nathalie Desmeules, MQDA Project Manager, said, “Ninety-five per cent of the work has been completed to date. The final phase of the project is the delivery of the new unloaders, which will be commissioned in mid-November just as the remaining work is completed.”

Rio Tinto undertook this major work on the port facilities’ infrastructure two years ago to improve the safety and efficiency of raw material receiving and unloading operations. The new pneumatic unloaders will work like a powerful vacuum cleaner, while the new conveyors will be fully sealed and complemented by two transfer towers. This is currently the most efficient unloading technology on the market, reducing the risk of alumina dust episodes

About a month ago, four Port Facilities employees flew to Germany to carry out a series of functional tests on the new equipment in preparation for its shipment. This was a long-awaited conclusion to the order placed in February 2021.

Simon Gagnon, Strategic Project Coordinator, Port Facilities, said, “We visited the manufacturer. With the construction of the equipment almost complete, it was time to check that the unloaders met the set criteria and to give final approval. The manufacturer was great to work with and our experience was positive, so we were able to proceed to the shipping stage as planned.”

Ms. Desmeules then added that, “Both Rio Tinto and the manufacturer are very satisfied with the quality of the equipment that we are going to put in place.”

The tests and risk analysis carried out at Powell Wharf a few weeks ago, in preparation for the arrival of the ship delivering the unloaders, were also successful. Mr. Gagnon said, “The mooring went smoothly. The people who were there were proud and impressed to witness this stage. It feels like we’re making history. It’s the kind of thing you only experience once, when you consider that the old equipment dates back to 1989!”

In the days that followed, the teams were busy removing the safety devices installed on the first unloader. In an effort to implement best practices, they met to share lessons learned to improve the handling of the second unloader.

At Rio Tinto’s Port Facilities, which have been in operation since 1926, some 125 ships are unloaded each year, and over five million tons of raw materials used in aluminium production are transported to Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean.

Some 100 workers were involved at the peak of the work, including the Operations Preparation team, consisting of David Gagné, Electro-instrumentation Technician; Guy Gagné, Mechanical Maintenance Technician (unloading); Pascal Murray, Operations Supervisor; Dany Thibeault, Mechanical Maintenance Technician (reloading); Éric Maltais, Operations and Maintenance Trainer; Jean-Daniel Lavoie, HSE Prevention Representative; Sylvain Pedneault, Engineering–Operations Coordinator; Daniel Néron, Major Projects Planner; and Brent Lebrasseur, Asset Management Support.

We would also like to highlight the contribution of the people who participated in the unloading of the new unloaders: Frédéric Gagnon (Hatch); Guy Claveau (Hatch); Pierre Maxime Saulnier (Hatch); Steeve Simard (Hatch); Luc Lepage (Hatch); Michel Rousseau (Rio Tinto); Sylvain Pedneault (Rio Tinto); and Nathalie Desmeules (Rio Tinto), as well as the Neuero team (unloader manufacturer); the SAL team (shipping company); the Fabmec team (mechanical contractor); and the Sirois team (electrical contractor).

Thank you to all the workers for their professionalism and exemplary cooperation.