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?
Don't Move Mountains... Build Over Them!
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.
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. Below are just a few projects that exemplify domes and vaults in the Andes today.
Planta Cerrillos: freestyle and circular domes were built on irregular terrain
Freestyle at Planta Cerrillos
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.
The whimsical and irregular gridshell at Planta Cerrillos accommodates a sprawling stockyard, equipment, machinery and personnel.
Geometrica designs and builds customized 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.
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.
El Brocal: interior view of barrel vault application for ore storage
Geometrica structures take advantage of 3-dimensional structural behavior. They are built of lightweight prefabricated tubing in galvavized steel or aluminum. Each dome or barrel vault is custom designed in Geometrica's computer-based manufacturing facilities. Then each tubular member is bar-coded, containerized, shipped and connected on site with patented aluminum 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®.
This open-pit silver, lead and zinc mine requires the transportation of 150,000 tons of rock and the processing of 40,000 tons 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 4,000 meters above sea level in the Altiplano of the Andes Mountains. Production requires the transportation of 150,000 tons of rock and the processing of 40,000 tons of mineral daily, requiring robust infrastructure. More than 88,000 galvanized steel tubes and 30,000 aluminum hubs form the domes, shipments of which consisted of containerized crates of parts.
The Geometrica system requires no welding, as the prefabricated tubes slide easily into the aluminum 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.
The Loma Negra facility has utilized limestone since the late 1920s as a producer of Portland Cement and other related products in Argentina. When the company needed an additional limestone storage solution, they contacted Geometrica.
Interior view, Loma Negra
Now an immense 110m circular dome sits in the district of Olavarria, Buenos Aires, high on the mountains of San Jacinto. The site was designed to absorb environmental impacts while producing a vital product. The dome ensures that the chemical properties of the limestone are safeguarded, while production bolsters the regional economy and provides employment for many local workers.
Exterior view, Loma Negra
The Barrick Zaldivar Mine is an open-pit, heap-ach copper mine in Region II of northern Chile at an elevation of 3,300m. Located approximately 1,400 km north of Santiago and 175 km southeast of the port city of Antofagasta, it required a circular 95m dome to store minerals.
Barrick chose Geometrica to design and construct their structure for several reasons: 1) Geometrica is one of the world's best known dome builders, 2) Geometrica had considerable experience with these types of domes in Chile, 3) Geometrica offered a lower lifetime price than competitive structures, and 4) the installation program was fast, even while the stockpile remained in operation.
Dome installation in progress with no downtime
A 95m dome now surrounds the stockpile and safeguards the surrounding habitat from air and runoff pollutants. Read more about the mine here
When Geometrica was commissioned to build the Codelco barrel vault for copper ore storage years ago, snow was a factor above ground. The structure was literally nestled into a hill amidst the most gorgeous scenery imaginable 2300m above sea level. And underneath was 2,400 kilometres of tunnels in the world’s largest underground copper mine, actively mined since 1904.
Today, El Teniente produces fire-refined and copper anodes with an output of 403,616 metric tonnes of fine copper.
Geometrica uses a minimum of materials to construct lightweight, yet incredibly strong, storage structures. This is exemplified by the Empresa Minera de Mantos Blancos project — a daring duo of dust-busting domes assembled using practical, fast and non-invasive methods.
A minimum of space and equipment was required, permitting a collaborative atmosphere in which other subcontractors could work on the site simultaneously. Various assembly methods accommodated all new construction situations. The result is a fine ore circular dome spanning 70m, and a copper circular dome spanning 60m. Both are environmental saviors when it comes to dust mitigation.
A duo of dust-defying domes was built for Empresa Minera de Mantos Blancos
More Activity in Antofagasta
When the world’s largest silver and 7th-biggest copper producer, Sierra Gorda, needed a pair of domes, they called Geometrica. The open pit mine development and preproduction stripping facility located in the Antofagasta region of Northern Chile required copper ore and concentrate storage. Geometrica designed and built an enormous copper ore storage Freedome spanning 122m, and another dome spanning 62m to contain concentrate. The smaller dome was clad internally for corrosion protection. Both help enable the primary, secondary, and tertiary crushing operations by storing the raw materials. Read more about the project here.
Circular storage — Antofagasta region
Enormous Freedome in Northern Chile
The Mining Dome at Escondida
Geometrica has built the longest industrial domes over free form piles using Freedome technology. This is true of the 99m mineral storage dome at Escondida, Chile — currently the highest producing copper mine in the world and largest provider of jobs in the region. Geometrica is pleased to have designed and installed the Escondida stockpile dome cover, as the overall Mine plays a key role in the Chilean economy and accounts for 2.5 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.
Bulk storage in the Andes
Additional Feats in Chile
Chile is a country full of many natural commodities and a prolific producer of ore, clinker, crops and more. Thanks to wonderful relationships with local manufacturers, the region has dozens of Geometrica domes embedded in the landscape. For example, the pair of Caserones domes – a 145m copper ore storage Freedome and a 52m concentrate dome — are located 4000m above sea level in the Chilean Andes, 160km southeast of Copiapó in the Atacama Region. The mine is owned by Japan's Pan-Pacific Copper and Mitsui and Co. Ltd. Construction involved unprecedented challenges due to the rugged location, freezing temperatures, high winds, low ore grade and scarcity of resources.
The 145m Caserones dome under construction
The Caserones domes are designed to withstand a rugged environment involving snow loads that reach 800kg/m2 and wind pressures of up to 300kg/m2. To see the epic installation high atop the Andes, see the construction video
No matter the terrain, climate, location or stockpile... the question is, "What can Geometrica build for you?" To learn more, please inquire below.