With several steps of the work complete, the project to modernise the wharf and alumina unloading system (MQDA project or Modernisation des quais et du déchargement d’alumine), launched in February 2021, is now 70% finished. The industry landscape is changing quickly and having modern facilities will ensure that the raw material unloading operations remain safe, efficient, and viable in the long-term.
Among the achievements of the last few months, the marine works are now 95% completed. A milestone was reached when a new structure—a “dolphin” in nautical terms—was built; thanks to this, the port facilities will be better adapted to ships’ current dimensions, and it will be safer to moor ships. The Powell Wharf was also upgraded to receive and unload alumina. The team dismantled part of a warehouse and widened the wharf deck, which required driving piles into the water and concreting a new structure that wraps around the existing wharf.
In preparation for the start-up of the equipment in November 2022, the teams are currently hard at work installing two new overhead conveyors and two alumina transfer towers. This work will continue through the summer and into October 2022. Electrical connections and instrumentation will complete the project, marking the start-up of the new equipment.
Nathalie Desmeules, Project Manager, credits the synergy between the different teams for the smooth running of the project. She said, “Everyone works in a spirit of cooperation and mutual aid. Despite a difficult, cold winter, we managed to deliver the project safely because the employees were very mindful of everyone’s wellbeing. We’re a great team.”
Of note is Rio Tinto’s transparency and collaboration with the community to develop this major project. Open discussions were held during consultation workshops and collaborations with the Good Neighbourly Relations Committee. In addition, to make project details available to everyone, a web-based information platform (in French) was created and is regularly updated.
We also continue to focus on protecting birds and preserving their habitat. The team is in the process of setting up safeguards to avoid having to interfere with the bird’s nesting. Last year, an environmental initiative to relocate the cliff swallows was carried out in collaboration with the community (link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHXWAPLusbE, in French).
The MQDA project in numbers:
- $105 million has been invested
- Approximately five million tonnes of raw materials are unloaded per year
- Approximately 125 ships drop anchor every year
- Work to install the two conveyors is currently 20% complete and will continue until October 2022
- Foundation work for the conveyors is currently 95% complete
- Marine works are currently 95% complete, pending the installation of bollards, guardrails, and fenders
- Electrical work and instrumentation are currently 10% complete and will continue until October 2022
- The work is scheduled to be completed in October 2022
- Equipment start-up is planned for November 2022
- The project is scheduled to be completed in March 2023