Mega order for Veldeman

Bree 1 March 2023 – In a few weeks, Veldeman will start construction of its largest-ever structure in Antofagasta, Chile, a project commissioned by Chilean mining company SQM. The custom-developed structure is no less than 60-m wide, 236-m long, with a side height of 6 m and will also instantly become Latin America’s largest semi-permanent structure. The mega order has a value of 9 million Euros.

l to r: Ludo Ost (Veldeman), Mauricio Barrera (SQM), Rolf Van Moer (Veldeman), Marcos Pacheco (Veldeman Chile), Patricio Cañete (SQM)

Veldeman won the contract to construct a gigantic warehouse for the bulk storage of 85,000 tonnes of soda ash, a raw material used in the production of lithium carbonate, the main component in lithium batteries used globally in (among others) electric cars. The client is the international listed Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile, or SQM for short, one of the world’s leading producers of lithium carbonate.

“The 14,160-m² structure consists of steel legs, aluminium roof profiles and a cladding of high-quality PVC-coated fabric and was fully custom-developed by our technical department to meet Chilean standards and wind loads. In the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, where the structure is being constructed, sporadic gale-force winds of up to 140 km/h occur,” says Rolf Van Moer, Manager Technical Department.

“Besides the engineering, production and assembly, Veldeman is also responsible for the installation of the foundations, retaining walls, electricity, lighting, electric gates, modular floor and a dust-collection system in this turnkey project. All coordination takes place from our headquarters in Bree, in collaboration with the local project managers of our Chilean branch,” says Ludo Ost, International Sales Manager.

The aluminium roof structure and all fabrics were shipped from Bree in 15 sea containers in early February. The foundations and steel legs were manufactured in Chile. After the installation of the foundations and a modular floor system, the construction of the structure itself will start at the end of March and will take around 16 weeks, including all accessories and utilities. A daring feat, as the particularly strict safety regulations in the mining sector mean that the construction time will be some 2 to 3 times longer than in a normal industrial environment. For example, construction may not take place at wind speeds exceeding 30km/h.

Veldeman has already built up considerable experience in the mining sector in Chile in recent years, including 5 structures for Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer. It is in part due to this expertise that SQM decided to partner with Veldeman.

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