The construction of a potash mine next to an existing facility in central Saskatchewan, the Agrium VAULT project is among the largest undertakings in PCL history. Construction lasted five years as we constructed everything from the mine site to processing and rail load out, including engineering, major procurement, and some scope in both the existing mine processing facility and the below-grade mine shafts. We were also responsible for oversight of the underground contractor working a mile below the surface.
Getting the job done meant modularizing several sections of the build and utilizing our skills in heavy lifting to build large sections of steel on the ground and lift them into place, rather than building them at height. We used laser scanning in the existing facility to assist with routing and we implemented advanced work planning (AWP) throughout engineering, procurement and construction to achieve the fastest possible delivery path, putting this work philosophy into place years before it would become adopted across the construction industry. The end result? The new facility is capable of producing 1.24 million tons of potash annually, 24% more than the goal of one million tons.
It may have taken half a decade to build, but the VAULT project operated on a fast-tracked timetable throughout its life cycle. At peak, over 4000 construction professionals were employed on site, and we operated 24/7 for several years to meet the project goals.
Finding that kind of labor power, especially during a period when construction across Canada was booming, required a massive effort from PCL’s labor relations team, and resources unique to a contractor of our size. More than 200 project management staff were on site at peak, and we recruited from literally across the globe to find over 4000 craft workers to meet the project’s personnel requirements. This also required utilizing both Building Trades and CLAC labor with no resulting labor disruptions to build different aspects of the project, an arrangement made possible by the flexibility provided by the PCL family of companies.