Subcontractors get a Vale mine in Argentina

In the countdown process for the execution of a megaproject for exploitation of potassium salts, Vale is paving the way for new business of the Brazilian subcontracting companies in Argentina. The investment has been placed at US$ 4.2 billion and shall be approved in November by the administrative board of the company. Due to the sheer size of the project, vale has split it into three large work packages, that shall be distributed to Odebrecht, Camargo Corrêa and Andrade Gutierrez.

All these companies already have business operations in Argentina, but considered that the Vale development was essential for the expansion of their activities in the country. Due to its duration, cash value and also the importance of the client, this is a very important contract for our operations, says the Superintendent of Odebrecht in Buenos Aires, Flávio Faria. He declines to release any details of the contract.

This development consists of the initial exploration of 2.4 million tonnes per year of potassium chloride as from July 2013, a figure which could gradually grow to as much as 4.3 million tonnes per year. Nearly all the production shall be exported, mainly for the production of fertilisers in Brazil, and this shall make Argentina one of the five largest sellers of this supply item in the whole world. Due to the characteristics of the soil, Argentinean agriculture does not use this type of fertiliser. Based on the average price quotation of US$ 300 per tonne – a conservative estimate – this shall mean a total volume of US$ 700 million per year in exports.

The installation of the mine itself is part of the first set of works, and it shall be the responsibility of Odebrecht. We are already working on the planning and also the engineering of certain details, says Faria. This involves the movement of thousands of tonnes of metallic structures, as also the construction and the assembly of the buildings which shall house the equipment, installation of tubing networks and also boilers. The plan is for this to get under way between January and February. The construction firm shall also supervise the placing of hanging belts for the removal of the ore.

Situated at the foot of the Andes Mountains, the project of the Colorado Rivers hall has a long way to go to reach the Argentinean cost. Camargo Corrêa shall enter with the logistics part. First, cement company Loma Negra (its controlled subsidiary) has granted to Vale a total of 700 km (435.1 miles) of Ferrosur, a railway which reaches out as far as Bahía Blanca, in the Province of Buenos Aires.

This segment, assigned for some US$ 60 million, is about 20% of the railway network under their concession and formerly served only an industrial plant of the cement factory, that shall continue to have traffic rights. Camargo shall be responsible for the recovery of some 500 km (310.8 miles) of track and also the construction of a new branch track, with a total length of 368 km (228.7 miles) to provide a connection between the mine and the rest of the Argentinean rail network.

The third set of work was assigned to construction firm Andrade Gutierrez, which shall build an own terminal for Vale at the port of Bahía Blanca, an industrial municipality which is home to the largest petrochemical companies in the country. This terminal may handle ships of the Panamax size, which means a maximum width of 32.3 metres and a draft of up to 12 metres, the maximum measurements to pass through the Panama Canal – and handle 1,600 tonnes of cargo per hour. This package also includes the construction of a compacting unit, which shall carry out the granulation of the potassium chloride and may compress it for shipment.

The Director of Andrade Gutierrez in Argentina, André Lima de Ângelo, stresses the importance of this project for the work portfolio of the group. The construction company returned to the country in 2007, seven years after a discreet presence, only with a representative office. Last year, the company won two tenders: one for the Province of Córdoba and the other for the City of Buenos Aires.

In all cases, Vale has an alliance contract with the subcontractors for the first phase of the project, which includes the engineering appraisals. The final details of the contracts shall be discussed by the end of the year. The package does not include other priority work, such as an airport with a runway of 1,800 metres, two energy transformation stations, and a transmission line with 120 km.

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