Raising the bar for safety and tyre life in the Pilbara

Two years before the greenfield Roy Hill mine site began hauling iron ore with one of the largest fleets in Australia’s Pilbara region, Kal Tire’s Mining Tire Group began laying the plans, culture and team that would soon deliver award-winning safety and operational performance.

As new equipment operators began to join the Roy Hill iron ore mine in Western Australia, each was asked to visit the Kal Tire shop, and, against a backdrop of scrap and failed tyres, talk with technicians about overcoming mining tyre challenges in such extreme conditions.

An open pit iron mine in the Pilbara region, Roy Hill poses difficult conditions for mining tyres: exposure to hazards from hard rock mining, very high ambient temperatures, and some of the highest average work day speeds of any mining operation in Australia.

Despite those stresses, Kal Tire has helped many of the mine site’s tyres exceed performance expectations, to the point the site has received international recognition from the manufacturer. Over the course of more than 2,600 earthmover tyre changes and three years (the life of the mine to-date), Kal Tire has also achieved zero injuries—medical treated, lost time, restricted work and serious.

Miles Rigney, General Manager, Western Region, Kal Tire Australia, says ultimately the achievements stem from three steps: regular tyre awareness communication like the meetings with new operators, a team committed to safety and operational performance, and early involvement in the mine’s design and tyre culture.

As a greenfield project, Roy Hill began involving Kal Tire in the mine’s early stages, in 2012, two years before the first haul truck even arrived.

“That additional time allowed us to be organised and to have a clear direction about what needed to be done and how it needed to be done in a way that fit our client’s culture and our culture,” says Rigney. “It meant our relationship with the client started on Day 1, and it became really strong.”

Like most greenfield sites, the equipment and associated operators ramped up over a period of time.

“With a focus on the safe management of tyres and wheels on site, we made the conscious decision to establish processes that could handle the steady state fleet, and that enabled us to efficiently manage what’s required as the fleet grew.”

Over the course of the two pre-operational years, Kal Tire was able to specify all the original equipment tyres and wheels, sort out tools, order the right tyres, man the tyre technician roster, and consult on the design and layout of the tyre maintenance facility. The company is greatly appreciative of both the workshop and resources that allow team members to do their work safely and efficiently, and of the chance to provide facility design consultation.

At the consultation stage, Kal Tire focused on a handful of steps that would improve safety and efficiency. For example, only authorised personnel and personnel vehicles have access to the facility, and beyond, all light and heavy vehicle traffic is segregated. Trucks entering the area to deliver or pick up tyres have a dedicated access road, all earthmover traffic is one-way, and tyre maintenance areas are segregated from all other facilities.

Roy Hill tyre storage racks

“We’ve learned lessons along the way about how to optimise the design, how to build the template and have all the systems and processes in place to allow our people to carry out their work safely,” says Rigney.

Other key safety steps that have allowed Kal Tire to work injury-free at Roy Hill include using purpose-built and certified tyre and wheel storage racks and covered, well-lit inspection stands to ensure thorough inspections. Kal Tire also adopted the 5S Housekeeping Standards for organising 23 individually assessed workspaces.

“We’ve kept the bar very high in safety and housekeeping,” says Rigney. “From the beginning, we made it clear that this is the standard and nothing else is acceptable, and that stuck.”

Roy Hill has been lauded as an example of safety performance by Kal Tire.

“The safety performance achieved at Roy Hill over the last three years has taken a lot of hard work and focus, from not only our onsite team, but also our offsite safety support team,” says Dan Allan, senior vice president, Kal Tire’s Mining Tire Group.

Kal Tire’s operational achievements at Roy Hill are also building a name for the company in Australia, where Kal Tire has provided service for approximately seven years.

With a fleet of more than 50 CAT 793 trucks, CAT 994 loaders and Hitachi excavators, Roy Hill is home to one of the largest fleets in the Pilbara. When the first CAT equipment arrived, Kal Tire’s monthly tyre awareness meeting focused on educating operators, operator supervisors and dispatchers on the relevant tyre’s capabilities given their design limitations and operational demands.

Those kinds of meetings, which take place every month at the Kal Tire facility, creates not just awareness but ownership of extending a tyre’s lifespan. In addition to the training, some of the company’s initiatives taken to improve operational performance include 24-7 monitoring and daily reporting of all truck lateral (side-to-side) G-force; a custom tyre pressure strategy, a custom tyre compound strategy that ensures optimum tyre performance while meeting the demands of the equipment, the operation and seasonal weather changes.

“Together, these strategies, the support from our client and our hard work have proven successful.”

So successful that tyres which had a target life of 5,000 hours have exceeded their lifespan by more than 10 per cent. In 2017, Roy Hill was presented Michelin’s Tyre Performance Excellence Award for a haul truck that achieved 141,000 kilometers.

“Our team is immensely proud. Our hard work and our focus on providing the highest level of safety and efficiency has enabled us to build an exceptionally strong and trusting relationship with our client, which we aim to grow upon for years to come.”

For more information on Kal Tire’s Mining Tire Group, please visit www.kaltiremining.com.