The Major External Partner Projects team was created last year to manage large-scale projects that are undertaken near Rio Tinto facilities in collaboration with external partners. Since Rio Tinto owns several properties and lands in the Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean region, a large number of capacity-building regional economic development projects are carried out close to or alongside Rio Tinto’s operations. One such project is the construction of Hydro-Québec’s Micoua-Saguenay line, a portion of which is being built near the Chute-à-Caron power station. This is the very first large-scale project under this new management structure.
The new line, linking Micoua substation on the North Shore and Saguenay substation in Jonquière, will help to maintain the reliability of Hydro-Québec’s transmission system. The project will cover 262 kilometres and involve 588 towers. Started in 2020 and with commissioning scheduled for the spring of 2023, it strengthens the ongoing collaboration between Power Operations and Hydro-Québec.
“The new power line will run through our properties,” said Mathieu Gauthier, Project Manager. “We had to make sure that the Hydro-Québec team on the site coexisted peacefully with our teams, partly because of the traffic and partly because we also had work to do in the area. At the same time, we had to monitor our operations to ensure that they remained safe and sustainable.”
Daily meetings between Rio Tinto and Hydro-Québec are still held to plan operations and streamline each team’s work. Gauthier added, “The project involved switching off the power and shutting down production at Power Operations so that Hydro-Québec could carry out its work. Both sides had to make adjustments. We communicated our requirements to Hydro-Québec, especially to protect the safety of their workers and ours, and the work was carried out very respectfully, which speaks volumes about their involvement.”
François Charbonneau, Project Engineer, Hydro-Québec, added, “I would like to highlight Rio Tinto’ thoroughness and predictability as the work progressed. We were always able to get the information that we needed, and through respect and mutual aid, both parties’ requirements were met.”
Marc Fortin, Field Lineman, Power Operations, noted, “We prepared and cleared our lines, which are there permanently, so that Hydro-Québec could pass over them. It was quite a challenge to figure out the task sequence needed to coordinate the work and switch off our equipment. A great synergy developed between the operations people and Hydro-Québec, because we all wanted the project to be successful.”
Management of major external partner projects
This new approach was put in place to protect Rio Tinto’s operations and business continuity while supporting the safe and timely completion of partner projects. It also streamlines communications by providing a single entry point for all partner requests.
“With this new structure, we have an overview of the projects and can see the different stages needed to carry them out,” said Caroline Jolette, Project Manager. “We work proactively with partners in the planning phase to promote peaceful coexistence between the teams and minimise risks. This benefits everyone, because during the project’s preparatory phase we can plan out adjustments and avoid surprises for either party as much as possible.”
The Micoua-Saguenay project is a good example of what the Major Projects team is aiming for in terms of collaboration. The team would also like to thank the internal teams involved in this new approach for a job well done, in terms of preparing the site and performing the work.