Kal Tire has proven that tyre management in underground mining can be an innovative activity that improves the safety and productivity of operations.
Underground mines usually fall way behind open pit sites when it comes to investment in tyre management services.
Australia’s open pit sites are known to spend between $5-10 million a year on earthmover tyres.
They also invest significantly in strategies that improve productivity and safety practices for workers that operate around tyres.
It’s a different story at underground mines. Owners of most underground operations, in contrast, annually spend less than $1 million on their tyres.
Many remote underground operations will also service their tyres in house and will not develop innovation that enhances their management practices.
That’s not to say tyre management innovation isn’t possible in underground mining.
Kal Tire Australia manager – sales and marketing Caleb Pullella says a number of opportunities have emerged that will improve underground mines.
“The maturity of underground operations compared with surface sites just isn’t there yet when it comes to tyre management, but it shouldn’t be overlooked,” Pullella tells Australian Mining.
Underground mines have several unique attributes that make them a more challenging environment than most surface operations, reinforcing the importance of innovation.
For example, fitters are often required to change a tyre on the spot of an incident, almost anywhere across an underground mine network.
Fitters at surface operations, meanwhile, enjoy the luxury of moving equipment to a dedicated tyre bay or safe point to make a change.
“In an underground scenario you could be in a stope or a work situation where the access to the machine isn’t great,” Pullella says.
“The ground that they are working on often isn’t ideal for changing a tyre, but they can’t get the machine to a suitable location to work on it.
“It is important to help them understand the dangers of changing tyres and have the workers certified, then they can make the change and understand the different risks underground environments pose.”
Kal Tire works at underground sites, big and small, to introduce tyre management strategies for preventative repair and planned maintenance.
As underground tyre changes compromise safety and slow productivity, Kal Tire helps mining companies ensure the rubber that goes to work is fit for the purpose and makes it to the next service.
The Canadian company offers its Tyre Operations Management System (TOMS), a digital tool that reports on key performance indicators, and analyses and recommends actions on tyre and fleets, to support the service.
TOMS has been developed to improve fleet uptime and productivity, but the tool can also help mining companies with predictive maintenance.
Kal Tire also supports risk management with safety programs, processes and training, which is particularly helpful for smaller companies that might not have the scale to invest in their own systems.
“We can provide a full solution to supply and manage all of their tyres and everything that surrounds the tyre and the wheel,” Pullella says.
“Kal Tire is there to help them reduce the overall spend on the tyre, to manage them as an asset and look at them with that respect.
“The programs are also set up to increase the awareness of tyres and safety around them. We will talk to the mine workers about how much each tyre costs and the impact they can have on operations when they are damaged.”
Kal Tire’s servicepeople will routinely analyse the environment of each underground operation that they manage.
This process enables them to identify issues affecting tyre performance and tailor preventative maintenance solutions that aid safety and productivity.
It also enables Kal Tire to find areas where innovation can be applied to underground tyre management activities.
Kal Tire recommends that underground sites consider using battery-operated equipment so tyre teams don’t have to rely on mine air that can be distant or compromised because of condensation.
“There is always air supply underground and you may not always have a service vehicle available when it is needed,” Pullella says.
“Having battery-operated equipment certainly helps in this case because you remove the potential for mine air with condensation, which can ruin your tools.
“You can certainly access and perform all the work you need to with that sort of equipment.”
Above all, Pullella stresses the importance of treating tyres as an asset that can have a major impact on the safety and productivity of an underground operation.
“Tyres are not a consumable, they are an asset and innovation to improve the management of them is possible – if tyres are managed in that respect it makes a big difference,” Pullella concludes.