The COVID Conundrum

In 2019, Kenmare initiated a project to extend its Moma Mine operation and start the processing at Pilivili in Mozambique. MATREX was subcontracted to do the detailed design to stabilise the power supply at Moma B substation and to build a new substation at Pilivili.



Make no mistakes, this was never going to be a standard project. The schedule was very tight and although relatively simple in design, it was very complex to execute. Then 2020 happened and lockdown came crashing in through the front door.

We could never have foreseen the circumstances in which this project would take place. We were beset by a whole new set of challenges that we had never had to overcome in the past.


The First Hurdle


How do you work on an international project with multiple parties involved without the ability to physically go and see them in person? Good question. The answer: The Internet and Online conference calls! Through clever use of Microsoft Teams, we were able to communicate with team members across the world to help facilitate remote work on-site from our offices.

A large number of additional drawings, documents and operating procedures needed to be created to effectively communicate sufficient information between various parties.


The Second Hurdle


Once the new norm for communication was established, we were prepared to tackle the second, quite harder problem: how to perform remote inspections on site. As a standard, the inspectors from various engineering disciplines would have to go on site to check compliance during certain stages of the project. In addition, our specialists would go and witness the Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT), which were in China.

Needles to say, nobody could travel for months, so we had to come up with the procedures and instructions for the personnel available on site to collect and send us the information required to do remote inspections from our office.

To overcome this challenge, hundreds of instructions, marked-up drawings, photos, videos, and drone pictures were sent via email, via live video feed and download applications. The documentation management became a small project in itself.


The Third Hurdle


Procurement. Have you ever had a single word cause so much trouble? Well, we did. Lockdown made it difficult to procure most of the necessary components and materials needed to build the substations. Factories and borders around the world had been closed due to COVID-19 concerns so procurement become a mission on its own. Everything had to be sourced from where there was available stock, not from where it was convenient or cost effective.

The team would acquire what they could when they could, and we supported their efforts by adjusting the design to accommodate what ever was available. No easy task to redesign parts of a substation that was already under construction.


Construction Complete


Despite all the challenges thrown at us during the COVID-19 pandemic, the substation had been successfully constructed and energized to power the new processing plant at Pilivili. Ahead of schedule!

One thing that stood out the whole time is that the world is full of strong people that volunteered to help under odious circumstances and their own hardships.

This entire project was completed with the support of the countless brave individuals who went an extra mile every day under the largest threat the humanity had to face in a century to complete this project.



Contact us if you need experienced consultants for any advice and be sure to let us know about your cultural foods!


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