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Excavation of GMT pier and enclosure foundations complete

Excavation of the foundations of the Giant Magellan Telescope’s massive pier and enclosure have finished, completing the next step towards the construction of the GMT in Chile.

The excavation work took only six months, well ahead of the planned eight-month schedule. It was done without explosives and required a crew of 40 people at the peak of the effort. The contractor, Conpax, found the integrity of the rock that will support the telescope to be excellent.

“The success of the excavation is a testament to our entire construction team. Its completion is a huge step forward for the project,” said Dr. James Fanson, GMT Project Manager.

Conpax removed 4,600 cubic meters of rock and 1,000 cubic meters of soil from the summit. It required 469 dump truck loads to transfer the material to storage where the rock was sorted and stored for future use.

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View of the GMT summit, transitioning from August 2018 to March 2019. Excavation for the pier and enclosure foundations is complete. Trenching work for the upgraded water and electrical distribution systems can be seen at the top of the image.

Site construction is continuing in 2019, with work to upgrade the site utilities infrastructure. The work is expected to take about eight months and will involve trenching and installing conduit and piping to connect the summit facilities and support sites to a common water and electrical system. This contract was also competitively awarded to Conpax.

“These initial work packages provide a great opportunity for our teams to refine our processes so that we are prepared to manage the much larger scales of work we’ll encounter as the GMT observatory is constructed,” said Dr. Bruce Bigelow, GMT Site, Enclosure and Facilities Manager.

Trench excavation work for the upgraded water and electrical distribution systems.

Trench excavation work for the upgraded water and electrical distribution systems.

Workers from Conpax test the pressure in new water pipes.

Workers from Conpax test the pressure in new water pipes.

With the completion of the utilities work, the site will be ready to support the next phase of construction – pouring the concrete foundations for the telescope pier, enclosure, and summit utility building. This work is expected to begin in the first half of 2020.

Construction at the GMT site is led by GMT’s Site, Enclosure, and Facilities group, supported by M3 Engineering (Architecture and Engineering), WSP (Construction Management), and Call & Nicholas, Inc (Geotechnical Engineers).