There is a global shortage of ultra large tyres that are widely used in mining haul vehicles. Apparently, it might take longer than expected before supply sufficiency is reached. John Martin, the Vice President of Kal Tire Southern Africa, providers of tyre solutions to the global mining sector, fields questions from African Mining Brief Online on the situation and sustainable ways through which mines can cope.
AMB Online: There was a time, a few years ago, when mining companies were spoilt for choice in tyre ranges they wanted for their vehicles. All of a sudden, we hear that there is a tyre shortage in ultra large class of tyres. How did we find ourselves with the current situation – from abundance to scarcity?
JM: By 2009, the global commodity market had turned from a literal feast to a famine scenario. The demand for mining tyres had dropped off just as rapidly, as the miners reacted to the lower global markets. Tyre manufacturers were forced to close and moth ball manufacturing infrastructure for a number of years.
At this time, the global mining industry has managed to recover, albeit quite slowly since the lows of 2012, therefore, demand has improved in recent years, placing existing manufacturing capacity under some pressure. Tyre shortages particularly in the ultra large class of tyre, namely from 49” diameters and bigger, have very definitely been on short supply for more than 12 months, while the smaller diameters of mining tyres have been less constrained, and are for the most part available from a variety of manufacturers.
AMB Online: Do you foresee the situation improving (supply increasing) any time soon?
JM: Indications from all the major manufacturers of the ultra large tyre class, have all indicated that within the next 12 months, the supply restrictions will be relieved. Manufacturing facilities that were previously mothballed, have in recent times been re-started, with the objective of introducing additional volumes into the market by 2019. Additionally, new manufacturers of ultra large tyres have exploited the tyre shortage situation to engineer and introduce new products, many of which have been quite successful, more than satisfactory results.
AMB Online: Obviously, the scarcity has occasioned a stratospheric rise in prices. Given that mining companies are frugal, as they are seeking means of reducing operating costs while improving efficiencies, what advice can you give companies on the options they can adopt to manage the situation?
JM: Whether in times of abundance or not, mining companies should be considering all options to extend the life of their mining tyres. Apart from the obvious operational benefits of improved road maintenance and driver disciplines, fleet management should be considering working with a reputable tyre services company that offers the opportunity to repair injured tyres, and also the possibility to re-using good quality casings for retreading of well-worn tyres.
It would be a shame to condemn these very expensive tyres to the scrap pile, which may have suffered either small and/or large injuries that may well be repairable. Additionally, a worn out tyre may well be a perfect candidate to be re-treaded, giving the tyre a full second life.
AMB Online: From Kal Tire’s perspective, how do you help companies manage the situation?
JM: Kal Tire has the technical skills, organisational competencies, infrastructural investments and innovation in every region to offer comprehensive repair solutions, for both large and small injuries to OTR tyres. Additionally, Kal Tire has state of the art facilities in North America, Latin America, West Africa and the UK, to provide retreading solutions for ultra-class sized tyres up to 57” in diameter. Kal Tire has exclusive innovative solutions called Ultra Repair that allows for the repairs of very large injuries of ultra large tyres.
Additionally, Kal Tire provides tyre management solutions through Temperature Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) that allows the operators of the mine to manage their tyre performance in real time, preventing unnecessary damage and downtime as a result of temperature or pressure damage.
Kal Tire’s exclusive Tyre Operations Management System (TOMS) has recently been launched globally. This management system allows for predictive maintenance techniques to be applied to tyre management, aligning tyre maintenance with that of the vehicle maintenance scheduling, saving once again on unnecessary down time, and getting the best return from the tyres and the fleet.
AMB Online: In situations, where tyres are beyond ‘redemption’ (can’t be repaired), and potentially an environmental hazard, what interventions do you have in terms of recycling, and relieving the burden in landfills and related disposal facilities?
JM: Kal Tire has invested heavily in tyre recycling technology and related facilities. The need for tyre recycling is often driven by local government legislation, but in many cases recycling facilities and services is being requested more often by good corporate citizens within the mining industry.
Kal Tire is already an active partner in the provision of tyre recycling facilities and processes in North America, and will additionally install its first thermal conversion plant (pyrolysis) operational in Latin America by mid-2019. Kal Tire continues to co-operate with a number of local governments in other countries, providing possible recycling solutions, as legislation on tyre recycling is being developed in these geographies.