Canadian Consulting Engineer

Award of Excellence: MOZAL Aluminum Smelter

October 1, 2003
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

CATEGORY: INTERNATIONALSNC-LAVALIN MURRAY & ROBERTSThe MOZAL Smelter was constructed on the greenfield Beluluane industrial site, 17 kilometres west of Maputo in Mozambique. A joint venture of SNC-Lav...



The MOZAL Smelter was constructed on the greenfield Beluluane industrial site, 17 kilometres west of Maputo in Mozambique. A joint venture of SNC-Lavalin of Montreal and Murray & Roberts Engineering Solutions of South Africa carried out the project.

The joint venture had an “EPCM” contract to engineer, procure, and manage the construction of the $1.2 billion project from concept through to handover of the facilities. Through all phases they worked closely with the owner’s project team.

The smelter uses Aluminum Pechiney AP 30S technology and consists of a single potline of 288 pots (electrolytic cells) with a rated capacity of 253,000 tons of aluminum remelt ingots per year. The site covers 140 hectares, or the equivalent of 340 soccer fields. The design provided for future expansion to add an additional potline and double the smelter capacity.

As the project was built in an under-developed country, it was necessary to provide much new infrastructure and special services. A new shipping berth and facilities were built at Matola Harbour. Land mines had to be cleared and road access was provided. There is a village for expatriate construction workers, as well as permanent housing for the smelter operators. The project also involved supplying power, industrial water, and a sewage treatment plant.

The work was divided into six areas, each under the control of an area manager. Areas related to the aluminum processing plant were the “Reduction,” “Casthouse” and “Carbon Plant.” Area 4 was “Power and Automation.” Area 5 was “General” and included utilities, roads, the central office, laboratory, engineering workshops, mobile equipment, the construction village, permanent residential housing, earthworks and piling. Area 6 was the “Harbour” and included a new quay at Matola Harbour, temporary laydown yard at Maputo Harbour, ship off-loader, conveyors, storage silos, service buildings, access roads and import/export yard.

With an original budget of $1.3 billion and an aggressive schedule of 31 months to first metal production, the first aluminum ingots were cast 25 months after the formal go-ahead by the owner — six months ahead of schedule and over U.S. $100 million under budget.

The smelter production was ramped up to its full 253,000 tons per year by December 2000.

Canadian engineering, construction and project management practices were applied throughout the project and were major factors in its success. The engineers believe that the project has set a world schedule record in the construction of a greenfield AP30S smelter. The final capital cost has contributed to MOZAL’s being one of the most economical smelters in the world, and its operation has provided a boost to the economy of Mozambique.


Mozambique is a Third World environment recovering from over two decades of civil war, and with no experience of projects of this magnitude. Consequently, the situation presented special challenges:

no existing infrastructure capable of supporting the plant (power, water, roads, communications, etc.);

labour force unskilled, requiring large-scale training;

logistical challenges of importing air, marine and road materials, and need to establish procedures with customs authorities;

presence of Malaria, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases;

flooding and rain damage;

unfavourable geotechnical conditions;

language barriers.

The international funders of the project required that First World standards were applied in terms of environmental, quality and safety considerations. In many respects these are more demanding than are normally encountered in Southern Africa.

Management and labour

The management and labour approach had several important features. The owners and engineering consultant teams were closely aligned to optimize performance. As well, a strong organizational matrix ensured each area manager was empowered with full budget, schedule, quality and safety accountability. All managers reported directly to the project manager. SNC-Lavalin’s own project management software tool “PM+” was used, customized for smelter construction.

A project labour agreement was made before work started and played a pivotal role in the success of the project. Less than one half of a percentage of the 24 million man-hours on site was lost due to industrial action. Of particular importance was a central wage bureau that regulated wage distribution and mitigated a potential source of unrest.

A training plan for Mozambican labour was set up, and over 70% of the site labourers, who numbered 9,000 at the peak, were Mozambican. Over 5,500 Mozambicans were trained in various construction trades over the course of the project. Policies and special initiatives were established early to create awareness for occupational health and safety, malaria and HIV.

The project team worked closely with the owner’s Mozambican Affairs department to empower local firms and encourage their participation.

An environmental impact assessment study was commissioned early in the feasibility study phase, which eliminated the potential for delays and for bad community and government relations. The results met World Bank Standards.

On completion of the design phase, the entire project management team and key design personnel relocated on site to provide on-the-ground management during critical construction and hand-over phases.

Name of project: MOZAL Aluminum Smelter, Maputo, Mozambique

Award-winning firms: SNC-Lavalin, lead of a joint venture of SNC-Lavalin, Montreal and Murray & Roberts Engineering Solutions, S. Africa (Adrian O. Owens, P.Eng., Brent Hegger, P.Eng., Pierre Dubuc, P.Eng., Clarence Bilodeau, P.Eng., Ian Dryden,

Claude Frgeau, P.Eng., Ed Ruiter, P.Eng., Ian Hendry, P.Eng., Michel Lamarre, P.Eng.)

Owner: MOZAL S.A.R.L.


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