Canadian Consulting Engineer

Award of Merit: Red Dog Mine

October 1, 2002
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Category: Project ManagementAMEC E&C SERVICESThe Red Dog zinc-lead mine is located above the Arctic Circle in Northwest Alaska, 145 kilometres north of Kotzebue. In 1999, 10 years after the mine opene...

Category: Project Management


The Red Dog zinc-lead mine is located above the Arctic Circle in Northwest Alaska, 145 kilometres north of Kotzebue. In 1999, 10 years after the mine opened, Teck Cominco began the latest in a series of improvements, launching the Value Improvement Program (VIP) Mill Optimization project. The program was to improve the quality of the concentrate and increase overall production by 15% by expanding and modifying the flotation circuits to match the capacity of the rest of the mill. The project also addressed the power supply and capacity of the water treatment plant.

More than $50 million of materials and equipment had to be specified and delivered during the summer of 2000. AMEC’s Vancouver office was in charge of engineering, procurement, project and construction management (EPCM).

The owner is Teck Cominco, and the construction contractor was NANA/VECO. The three companies formed an innovative contracting “Alliance” for the $170 million project, which required completion within a 22-month period from concept to commissioning.

The fast-track schedule was especially difficult given the mine’s location. An 80-kilometre road connects the site to a port, but shipping is limited to a 100-day, ice-free window beginning in early July. The biggest scheduling challenge was to complete the design (process modelling, preliminary and detailed design), to procure and have delivery of materials, and to build and ship the modules, all within a nine-month period.

Two major components were the massive powerhouse and flotation modules. The powerhouse module has a height of 20 metres and weighs 750 tonnes, while the flotation module weighs twice as much and is 25 metres high. They were constructed in Anchorage and barged 2,500 kilometres to the Red Dog port on the Chukchi Sea. They were then transported 88 kilometres overland using a special carrier with 200 wheels and powered by three 500-hp engines.

The decision to use a modular building approach for the flotation circuit posed challenges. The mechanical layout had to accommodate the module’s very compact footprint, without compromising ease of access and maintenance. AMEC’s engineers developed an elegant symmetrical layout that kept piping lengths and complexity to a minimum.

The project was organized by selecting the best person for each position regardless of their company affiliation within the Alliance. The approach resulted in a smaller, more focused management team than is possible under a standard contracting arrangement, and it improved the lines of communication among the partners. A project website was used to share drawings and other documents between the design offices in Vancouver, Anchorage and the Red Dog site, and members of each partner were resident in each location. The team integration was most intense at the Red Dog site itself. Each partner retained its own systems and practices in areas such as cost management and material control, and these were interfaced to transfer the data.

The design objectives were all met on time and despite a tight labour market, the project was completed in November 2001. Costs were within 1% of the capital budget. As part of its responsibilities, AMEC did detailed engineering for the process, electrical, instrumentation, mechanical and piping aspects, as well as structural design of the modules’ interiors.

The project has increased Red Dog’s annual throughput from 3.2 to 3.5 million tonnes, and improved zinc recovery from 83% to 87%, enabling the plant to produce 1.1. million tonnes of zinc concentrate per year.

Name of project: Red Dog Value Improvement Program Mill Optimization

Award-winning firm: AMEC E&C Services, Vancouver

(engineering, procurement, project and construction management). Steve Ciccone, P.Eng., Glen MacLellan, Bob Stanlake, P.Eng., Jeff Garrison, P.Eng., Don Osing, P.Eng., Chuck Wong, P.En., Vincent Maddalozzo, P.Eng., Dieter Schellak, Doug Lacey, Bill Hatton, P.Eng.

Owner: Teck Cominco


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