Building the SKA support infrastructure

Final product; Installation of the dish onto its foundation.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is currently being built in the Northern Cape, about 80km from Carnarvon. (30°43’16.068”S 21°24’40.06”E to be precise.) The SKA Radio Telescope will be the largest telescope in the world and one of the biggest scientific projects ever … competing with the likes of CERN in Switzerland for scientific importance.

Construction on the site is well underway and CBN met up with the NMC Civils team that was responsible for upgrading of 40km roads for the Northern Cape Province (allowing access to the SKA site) as well as the initial infrastructure which included the access roads, electrical and support infrastructure and the third project, the construction of 64 concrete antenna bases. The company has now also been awarded a further tender, which encompasses the project management of the design and construction of 80kms of road for the project. NMC Civils won a Construction World Magazine award for the construction of the 62 concrete antenna bases.

“It is a story of three projects,” says George De Sousa, Executive Director of NMC Civils. “It started a few years ago when we did the first gravel road to the then prospective SKA, back in 2008. In 2011 we won the tender for the first phase of SKA and then went on to be awarded the tender for the first phase of the Meerkat.”

He goes on to explain that the relationship between NMC Civils and the SKA project management team is one based on reciprocal confidence, built on the back of finishing these projects within budget and on time. “These projects have not been completed in a vacuum though,” continues De Sousa, “Skills are an invaluable resource, and so we are taking an active role in the local community by buying local materials and using local contractors. We also provided hot water infrastructure to local medical centre and computers to the local school to assist with upskilling the staff and learners at the school.”

NMC Civils, previously Brink & Heath Civils, has recently rebranded under the NMC Construction Group umbrella. NMC Civils services most sectors including transport, water and sanitation, renewable energy and infrastructure development while NMC Construction has projects across the board, in industrial, retail, commercials, health care and security (police station etc.) The company has received ISO certification in the following three standards; ISO 9001, 14001 and 18001. This certification falls under the NMC group umbrella. The collective benefit for the NMC Construction Group to have both its building and civils divisions ISO certified is far reaching. It is an important step in the group’s growth strategy.

“This is important when tendering for projects, especially for international companies. It also shows our current clients that we are up to spec. Our systems are up to scratch and our quality controls are exactly as they should be.”

The NMC Construction Group has been actively repositioning itself in the market, consolidating its assets and skills to diversify and be able to tackle bigger and more complex projects, while remaining loyal to its existing clients and completing the smaller projects it has always serviced. The NMC Construction Group has expanded its footprint nationally, “The whole position of the group has changed – we are now a national business. We are well positioned and have branches in Gauteng, Durban, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Namibia,” says Mike van Coller, Executive Business Development Director.