IGS Chapter Focus: Peru

Mining and hydraulics are just two areas of growth potential for geosynthetics in Peru. IGS Peru Chapter Founder and twice-President, Augusto Alza, shares more on the opportunities for geosynthetics’ growth.

The IGS Peru Chapter was set up in 2001. Can you tell us a little about its membership?

“We have four corporate members and 27 individual members. Most of our members are aged over 40. Twenty-five per cent are founder members and the rest have been with IGS for 10 years.”

What has the Chapter done that you are most proud of? 

“We translated the book Designing with Geosynthetics by Robert Koerner, for our first educational events. We also have four National Congress events and hosted the 2nd GeoAmericas conference in 2012.”

What have you been doing in the chapter and what’s coming up?

“We held an Educate the Educators event in January this year. This meeting had Professor Jorge Zornberg and Professor Ennio Palmeira as instructors and almost 40 professors from different universities in the country, as attendants.

We are preparing, for first time, an event in September, next year, in coordination with other professional societies like Geotechnical Engineers and the Dams Committee. In the case of geosynthetics, it will be the 5th National Congress called GEOSPERU 2020.”

How would you describe the level of adoption and understanding about geosynthetics and geotextiles etc in Peru? 

“Geomembranes are the most accepted geosynthetic in Peru, because of their use in huge quantities in mining, and sanitary and agricultural applications. Geotextiles are well accepted in filtration functions as subsurface drainage, and protection functions with geomembranes. The first of these applications is because the government, through MTC (Ministerio de Transportes y Comunicaciones) which is in charge of all roads in the country, adopted the AASHTO M-288 as a standard in the use of geotextiles. The second one is because new mines and the enlargement of old ones, uses a huge quantity of geomembranes for heap leach pads and treatment ponds, and the geotextiles protect them against puncture.

MSEs (mechanically stabilized earth) are well accepted too. In fact, all the walls built for urban overpasses are made of reinforced earth with concrete blocks or panels. GCLs (geosynthetic clay liners) and drainage geocomposites are widely used in heap leach pads and ponds for mining operations and for encapsulating landfills. The use of geogrids in pavement applications represents an enormous challenge in our country – there are only some applications such as subgrade improvement and base reinforcement.”

Where are the areas of most opportunity?

“Mining and hydraulics are the areas of most growth. Versatile geocells filled with different infill materials from sand to concrete are going to be used in diverse projects. There are many untapped opportunities in pavement optimization to extend the lifecycle and/or to reduce the initial cost, in roads. There are some projects in the railway network for the coming years as well.

Some new geosynthetics applications also exist in the mining industry, like the use of geogrids in adding capacity for tailing deposits by heightening dams and steepening the slopes.”

What does the industry need to do to ‘grow the market’?

“More education about our products and applications, greater normative design methodologies to improve best practice, and more research.” 

And what about in terms of South America as a whole?

“Basically it’s the same situation, with some products more developed than others in some countries, depending on the leaders in every domestic market. For example, in Peru, MSE (mechanically stabilized earth) with geogrids are well known and accepted while in Colombia, the most accepted uses involve geotextiles.”

Can you describe the geosynthetics marketplace for other countries in South America?

“In general, South America has plenty of opportunities because of our lack of infrastructure. For example, there is a gap between the quality of existing roads and the need for good transportation links for people and goods. This gap is, depending on the country, worth several hundreds of thousands dollars. 

Particular opportunities by country include roads in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, landfills in Peru, mining in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina, and gas and oil in Peru and Bolivia. Also, in Peru, which is the main market I know, the great wave of investment is for mine closures. It’s imperative we show all the advantages of geosynthetics in these applications, especially in durability and footprint issues.”

Where is the geosynthetics industry concentrated in Peru? 

“If you ask about the economic sector, which buys geosynthetics, this is in mining. There is one company that manufactures geomembranes and geocells and other one which produces geotextiles in Lima. Besides, there are two facilities manufacturing geomembranes, in the southern and northern coast of the country.”

Are there any notable projects in Peru that have used geosynthetics? 

“There are many environmental remediation works in mining operations built with geosynthetics. There are some heightening of tailing dams in mining operations that are remarkable in our country.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

“Since 2002 there has been an elective course in the Civil Engineering Faculty at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú called Designing with Geosynthetics with 40 hours per semester. Nowadays, there are two other universities which run this course. This is relevant because every year, an important number of new civil engineers are incorporated to our professional community with a wide knowledge of geosynthetics.”

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