The Colombian government's 4G Toll Road Concession Program is the largest road infrastructure development project in Latin America. It involves the expansion or maintenance of about 7,000km of roads as well as the erection of new bridges.
On the east-west route from Ibagué to Cajamarca, the contractor Mincivil S.A. is relying on a Liebherr LB 36 drilling rig. The alternative would have been a significantly more laborious job.
One section of the large-scale construction project is in the Andes in West Colombia. In close proximity is the Nevado del Tolima, beside the Nevado del Ruiz and the Nevado de Santa Isabel, it is one of the three largest volcanoes in the Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados. A two-lane road is being built on the 35km long route between Ibagué and Cajamarca and will include 40 bridges made of concrete elements. Once completed journey times are expected to be halved.
The contractor for the project is APP GICA S.A., a group of six Colombian construction companies. One of them, Mincivil, is using an LB 36 drilling rig from Liebherr for the installation of the bridge piles in Ibagué. Using the Kelly drilling method, the machine is installing piles with diameters of 1,500mm and average depths of 30m. The number of piles varies according to the design of the bridge. Depending on the soil conditions, the LB 36 has a daily performance of 10 to 15m drilling depth.
The proximity of the Nevado del Tolima is clearly noticeable on the job site. Due to the close vicinity of the volcano, the soil consists of a hard rock layer and is extremely difficult to crack. A task which is a little too ambitious for many drilling rigs. Daniel Rodriguez, Foundation Unit business manager at Mincivil, has already applied diverse deep foundation equipment without success. However, thanks to his many years of experience, he is sure of one thing: "Only Liebherr comes into consideration with such hard soil conditions."
Man versus machine
Not only is the Kelly drilling a challenge for man and machine. In consideration of the extremely rough terrain on this job site, it is in itself a remarkable feat that Mincivil ever managed to transport the LB 36 to the job site.
However, it is not possible everywhere or the costs involved to get it to the location would be disproportionately high. In these situations, the only alternative is to install the piles manually, a laborious and time-consuming job that has to be done by hand.
This physical effort is also required in Ibagué where with tremendous effort the workers are achieving 1.5m per day. Of course, the comparison between them and an LB 36, with a daily performance which is ten times higher, is not fair. It shows, however, just how important reliable and high-performance machines are for the completion of such large-scale projects. Rodriguez is pleased that Mincivil is reaching a high level of productivity through the good performance of the LB 36.
If the entire project goes according to plan, it should be completed in 2024, following an investment of COP 1,810,392,000,000 (US$534 million).
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