"By any standards, it's a desolate place for a mine," says Apolinar Guzman, a construction industry veteran who works for general contractor Bechtel International Corporation as project manager for the Antamina Mine in Peru.

Antamina Mine is located 290 miles north of Lima, Peru, at an altitude of 13,779 ft. It is expected to produce 70,000 tons per day of copper- and zinc-bearing ore. The $1.7 billion Antamina Mine Project, the largest in the world today, is a joint venture of Canadian mining giant Rio Algoney Noranda & Tech, with minority participation by Mitsubishi.

The mine is located high in the Peruvian Andes Mountains. "It's a hard place to work," Guzman reports with a shiver. "It's almost always cold, not far above freezing at midday and well below freezing every night. The rarified air at those heights greatly increases the strain on the workers."

The Antamina site is also a hard place to reach. Its isolation means that it has to be self-sufficient, especially in its ability to combat the threat of fire.

The mine required a fire detection and voice evacuation system that could be used on a local area network with a supervising station that would provide 24-hr attention. To provide appropriate protection, Bechtel awarded Siemens Building Technologies SA (SBT, Lima, Peru) a $2.5-million contract for design, procurement, and installation of fire detection, alarm, and extinguishing systems.

1.25 Miles of Fire Protection

SBT sales manager Edmundo Guillen says the company's Fire Safety MXLV multiplexed, distributed-intelligence fire alarm panels were the only option. The systems were designed to protect the crushing, grinding, and concentrator facilities of the ore-processing operation; the mining offices; and the narrow, 1.25-mile-long tunnel through which ore is conveyed out of the mountain.

"It's a huge system to protect a huge facility, but the most difficult part of the contract was the slim five-month window to complete all the fire safety work," explains Guillermo de la Torre, fire protection sales manager for SBT Lima. "We sent 150 workers and supervisors to live and work at the Antamina site, and one or more of our principals was always there for oversight of the job."

De la Torre describes the extent of the Antamina fire alarm/voice evacuation system: a 53,000-ft fiber-optic network connecting 21 Siemens Fire Safety MXLV multiplexed, distributed-intelligence fire alarm panels with voice evacuation function to the central control building. The network is monitored by an NCC color graphic display.

800 Signal Points

The MXLV panels supervise some 800 individual signal points. These include 500 detectors, primarily Fireprint(tm) application-specific, intelligent smoke detectors programmed to match the background environment, as well as beam detectors, 200 manual pull stations, and 50 supervisory connections.

FM-200 extinguishing systems are provided for computer and telecommunications rooms. The facility is also fitted with 16 fire sprinkler systems, including 26,000 ft of piping supplying 2,500 sprinkler heads, 56 fire stations and 200 hand-held fire extinguishers. Siemens Fire Safety detection systems, along with a full complement of sprinklers, protect all processing and office locations. The tunnel relies on ceiling sprinklers, with sprinkler heads every eight ft, and other components.

"We brought in the job on time and the acceptance testing went extremely well," de la Torre comments. He notes that the enormous job was completed in a timely fashion despite another major contract the company had under way at the same time: fire protection for Yanacocha in Peru, one of the largest gold mines in the world.ES