Construction company Basil Read has completed 60% of an access road to Husab, which is expect to become the second-largest uranium mine in the world, in Namibia, reports Basil Read MD Dave Bennett.
The company was awarded the project in November last year by emerging Namibia-based miner, Swakop Uranium, and started construction through its Namibian subsidiary in January. Completion of the access road is expected in April 2014.
Bennett explains that the 22 km access road will be 11 m wide and will comprise one 3.5 m lane in both directions, with a 0.3 m surfaced shoulder and a 1.7 m unsurfaced shoulder.
The project also involves a 2 000 m3 concrete bridge, with eight spans of 20 m each, which are supported on foundations comprising more than 600 m of piling. The 160-m-long bridge will be erected over the Khan river, about 14 km from the Husab uranium mine project,” adds Bennett.
He tells Engineering News that the bridge will be the longest to be constructed in Namibia since the country’s independence in 1990.
“Owing to the heavy traffic volumes that are expected on this access road, Cape seal was identified as the best surfacing for the project. “It requires less maintenance and is far more economical to construct in remote environments compared with the alternative of hot mix asphalt.”
The moon-like terrain of the area is a challenge, Bennett notes, as it is difficult to navigate. Construction vehicles are equipped with balloon tyres to make them more efficient in the sandy conditions and although tipper trucks are more economical, articulated dump trucks are being used for transferring materials because of the terrain.
Further, he says when the project started, access to water was a great challenge and had to be drawn municipally. However, he notes that the client proactively became involved in the solution of the problem and managed to negotiate ample supply by negotiating with Namwater to recommission a desalination plant, in Swakopmund.
A remaining challenge is that the project has to adhere to environmental restrictions, as it is within the Namib Naukluft National Park and adjacent to the Dorab National Park. For example, vehicles are not allowed to deviate off their designated tracks. Bennett highlights that the area is a desert region, with a fragile ecosystem. Much focus is on protecting the environment, as there are many endangered plant and tree species in the park and riverbeds.
He adds that Basil Read is making every effort not to disturb what is left of the surrounding and remaining historical sites.