By Sharyn Macnamara | All images supplied Kal Tire Mining Tire Group
Mining tyre management partner Kal Tire has brought a range of world-first tyre tech solutions to the mining industry to answer the ESG call – a key focus for the responsible miner.
Kal Tire’s Mining Tire Group services more than 150 mine sites across five continents. The group is known in the industry for its philosophy of innovation in the extension of tyre life. The business of retreading and repairing (a costly grudge purchase in the industry) is, for obvious reasons, key to operational requirements, but the company has gone much further than just improving cost control and production efficiencies for miners with their innovation in addressing each stage of the tyre life cycle in operations. Kal Tire is making a significant impact with its forward-thinking solutions by adding immense additional value to ESG (Environmental, social and governance) targets in the industry, in which safety is core.
Dan Allan, senior vice president at the group told African Mining that when it comes to supplying innovative solutions for end-users into the future, the company constantly has its eye on global developments hovering on the horizon. The company had begun to observe and track global legislative transformation already in 2016 and had started working then to answer the ESG call for clients. “This is when our understanding of what we could do differently and how we could make a relevant difference in the sphere of ESG was born,” he said.
He noted, “More than ever before, mines are challenging themselves ‘to do better’ when it comes to safety and ESG and we have invested in developing a range of solutions that are effective and add real value.” Over and above this, in assisting customers to fulfil their constantly evolving ESG obligations, the company is also bringing mining operations new ways of working that enable additional safety of technicians. The company’s solutions range from a recently expanded carbon emissions reporting program and a recycling solution that promotes a circular economy, to autonomous tyre inspections and prototypes for two first-in-kind tools that make it safer for technicians work with OTR (off the road) tyres.
Retreading/repairing reduces carbon footprint
Allan explained that the company’s carbon emissions reporting program – the Maple Program and custom-built carbon calculator – have evolved from the company’s recycling and tyre life extension philosophies in repairing and retreading processes. The program is a third-party accredited tool, which enables miners to quantify the oil and emissions they save when using the company’s sustainability services: Ultra Tread™ , retreading, Ultra Repair™ (a repair patch that solves larger tyre injuries) and now, as of summer 2022, conventional repairs from OTR tyre sizes 49” and up. Tyres with large, but less complex injuries can effectively be restored and returned to service through the patch process, which is performed often in every region Kal Tire operates in. For example, the company opened a repair facility in Hotazel, South Africa, last year where there has been great demand for OTR tyre repairs in the growing copper and iron ore region of the Northern Cape. A repair facility of this kind has also recently been opened in Mozambique. The Maple Program allows customers to retrieve annual certificates containing SCS Global accredited data about their savings.
“With our sustainability solutions within the Maple Program, we provide an important and accessible way for mines to reduce costs and their carbon footprint in parallel, while extending tyre life,” explained John Martin, group vice president, Southern Africa. Moreover, the appetite for this solution has increased beyond the bigger mining houses to aggregate producers too, who see the benefits locally said Martin. He added that with the advent of Carbon Tax expected in South Africa within the next two years, it is anticipated that the appetite for this kind of solution will increase.
Life-extending maintenance tools
Automation solutions not only offer innovative ways to increase efficiencies by reducing risk and downtime, but also additional means to increase lifespan of tyres to save costs and Kal Tire’s autonomous tyre inspections are a game changing case in point 1. This solution integrates the thermal imaging technology of Pitcrew.ai with TOMS™, Kal Tire’s proprietary Tire & Operations Management System, to detect potential issues inside the tyre early, and TOMS automates critical next steps for maintenance, such as work orders for inspections. These innovative stations are now in use at sites in Canada, Australia, Chile and soon to be in Mozambique. The company notes that on its own, TOMS is a powerful productivity tool that supports near-instant visibility and a focus on planned tyre maintenance. Good predictive maintenance, once again adds to longevity in tyre life, reducing carbon emissions indirectly too.
Heavy yellow equipment on mines is subjected to ever-increasing loads and speeds and tyre tech therefore plays an integral role in maintaining mine safety too. In September, at the 2022 Electra Mining Africa show, prototypes for two first-in-kind tools to assist improvements in efficiency and safety were showcased by the company. Kal Tire presented a mobile Wheel Inspection unit which enables an operation to pre-inspect wheels using scans on site for cost-effective convenience and time-saving, to pick up cracks along weld lines or ring grooves that could compromise wheel integrity and safety. The solution saves the mine time and transport costs averting the sending of these extremely bulky items away for manufacture inspection and repair, should the wheel require it, and thus preventing downtime. (Go to the African Mining LinkedIn post below to view this prototype in action at Electra Mining Africa 2022)
The Kal Clamp is the second prototype that was introduced at Electra Mining Africa 2022, which enables tyre technicians to safely perform the last, and most dangerous, step of removing or installing an OTR tyre and wheel assembly. Typically, for this final step in maintenance, technicians would be required to stand beneath a tyre manipulator forklift bearing the weight of the assembly. Instead of removing nearly all the lug nuts, the technician will start by removing the five lug nuts at three and nine o’clock. Now, a Kal Clamp is mounted on both the three and nine o’clock studs to secure the wheel and ‘lock’ it in place. When the Kal Clamp has ‘locked’ the studs, all the other lug nuts can now be removed. The technician steps far back and the tyre manipulator approaches and establishes a secured grip on the tyre/wheel assembly. The technician presses a switch on a remote control, the clamp’s jaws loosen and the tyre/wheel assembly is dismounted with no risk to the technician.
In 2021 Kal Tire stepped up to address the ‘burning’ issues around the ‘end of the road’ for tyres. The company successfully opened a thermal conversion mining tyre recycling facility in northern Chile, which uses heat in the absence of oxygen to convert tyres into their base elements (fuel oil, steel and carbon black), allowing almost 100% of the tyre to be reused. “The journey in Chile shows us here in Southern Africa what’s possible when stakeholders unite and commit to solutions at the top of the recycling hierarchy,” says Martin. “Thermal conversion promotes a circular economy, is scalable and it can be implemented anywhere.” To this end, in the last quarter of 2022, the company announced a joint venture signed with Mitsui & Co., a global corporate group focussed on innovation and sustainability, partnering to bring the solution to other regions in the world. Currently South Africa has a waste tyre recycling program where a levy is imposed by government on newly purchased tyres to fund recycling, but there have been indications that the system has challenges which have led to stockpiled tyres.
Allan explains, “There are huge quantities of OTR tyres awaiting final disposal at mines around the world. At some sites, the stockpiles are so big that they’re visible using tools such as Google Earth. Finding management solutions is difficult, because very few recycling facilities can handle mining tyres. Some ultra-class products weigh approximately 5t apiece, so they require specialist lifting equipment and transportation, in some cases, over long distances to reach the facility, and then dedicated shredders to reduce their size.”
The proven Kal Tire thermal conversion solution works extremely well in areas like Chile where legislation requires that 25% of a mine’s total import of tyres be proven to be recycled. The solution at the facility in Chile enables, by way of example, the breaking down of a 63”-diameter radial OTR tyre using thermal conversion or pyrolysis to produce approximately 1 600kg of carbon ash (which can be filtered and used as a replacement for new carbon black); 900kg of high tensile steel; 2 000 litres of petroleum-based products (which can be refined and used to create new tyres); and 350m2 of synthetic gas that can feed the recycling process.
Allan notes, “The first iteration of recycling in some jurisdictions is shredding making rubber crumbs, usually used as tyre-derived fuel, which is generally sent to coal fired plants, or cement kilns because it burns cleaner and hotter than coal. But this is still essentially burning a tyre. The second iteration is the usage of crumbs, sometimes through government subsidies, to start to generating car parts, dry mats and asphalt offering the material a second life, rather than burying the tyres, however, it is really just delaying the ‘journey’ to landfill. The Kal Tire solution is positioned at the pinnacle of the recycling hierarchy converting the tyre into its base elements and is circular in nature – this is the optimal use, which provides a substitute, rather than creation of new carbon products, and thus helps reduce their total carbon footprint.”
Kal Tire has responded to the market timeously to supply tyre tech that meets the global ESG compliance challenge. Allan concludes, “As more and more mines act on bold new ESG commitments that will enhance lives, communities and the environment, we look forward to continuing to develop solutions that deliver positive change.”
|(Go to the African Mining LinkedIn page below to view more on the company’s recycling facility in Chile at Electra Mining Africa 2022)|
|To review the Kal Tyre white paper on this subject go to Turning waste mining tires into value – Kal Tire Mining Tire Group|