Manufactured as a network of forged and welded components that fit over the tyre’s tread and sidewall areas, the chains can also improve machine efficiency, traction and digging cycle times, all of which can have a direct impact on an operation’s output.
Australian companies already realising the benefits of the chains include Argyle Diamonds in Western Australia, which uses them on a Caterpillar 994 wheel loader, and Allied Plant Services in Queensland, which uses them for traction control on its underground coal mining fleet, and interest is building strongly.
RUD product specialist for tyre chains and mining Greg Glennon reports a high level of enquiry, even from sites where the chains have previously been considered uneconomical. He said the tyre supply situation had forced maintenance managers to look at the chains from a new perspective.
“We have been supporting tyre management, mining and quarrying companies with evaluations of their tyre operating costs on wheel loaders and other equipment, and this has led to the chains being installed at a number of locations,” Glennon said.
“Once they are installed on a machine that has not previously operated with them, we invariably find the operators and management become quickly convinced about the benefits, ease of operation and low maintenance. The value that can be achieved is more relevant today than ever before.”
RUD sales and marketing manager Mike Cooper said the chains could be fitted to any type and size of tyre, and while not necessarily cheap on their own, they were cost-effective when compared to the price of having to repeatedly replace complete sets of tyres.
For small machines, the cost of the chain could be up to twice the cost of one tyre; as the machines got larger, however, the price ratio came down closer to 1:1. For super class machines, such as Komatsu’s WA1200 wheel loader, the chain price was about 85% of the tyre price.
Cooper said the amount of maintenance required on the chains also varied, depending on how many hours the machines accumulated. “For most mining applications, adjustment of the chains happens once every 400-600 hours, but that can be less frequent in low-abrasion situations,” he said. “We also recommend routine daily inspections to monitor chain wear and check for breakages, which are not that common. It is a relatively safe process which takes about 10 minutes per wheel.”
First used by the mining and quarrying industries worldwide in the 1950s, tyre protection chains have been used extensively in Australia for the past 30 years. They are most commonly used on sites where there is hard or sharp rock that can result in expensive cuts or damage to tyres.
“With each job, we try to understand the site operating conditions, how many hours the equipment works, how far each machine travels in a day and at what speeds,” Cooper said. “We also collect information on the characteristics of the rock or ore type before deciding on the most appropriate chain design which will present the client with a low-cost/high benefit solution to tyre replacement.”
Australia’s Mining Monthly