Coates Hire has a close working relationship with BHP Billiton at the Olympic Dam mine site in South Australia that is paying dividends for both companies.
Olympic Dam, 560 kilometres north of Adelaide, contains one of the largest known ore bodies in the world today, producing copper, uranium, silver and gold. A Coates Hire branch at nearby Roxby Downs services its routine requirements.
“Coates Hire – and previously Wreckair – have worked with BHP Billiton since 1987,” according to Business Development Manager, Major Accounts, South Australia, Leigh Rebbeck.
“We have supported major shutdowns previously, but in the last three years we have supported all maintenance shutdowns at the Olympic Dam processing mills and at the smelter.
“Each shutdown is different, routinely there are 200 people involved, but 18 months ago there was a major project for which we had to provide tools and equipment for more than 1,000 workers.
“A three-year shutdown schedule is updated every six months, but inevitably there are unplanned shutdowns.”
The Coates Hire team convinced the mine management of the savings to be made by positioning shutdown resources on the site permanently instead of regularly shipping them in and out.
As a result or removing the large transport cost component, the shutdown offering became a viable option for the smelter and also for the minor shutdowns in the mills which occur every six weeks.
Coates Hire resources for the shutdowns include tools housed in three specially fitted out shipping containers, with a fourth container providing an office and a serving counter.
“When we only looked after the mills we couldn’t justify leaving the containers of tools up there, but by the time one shutdown finishes we are already preparing for the next which is often just six weeks away, so it now makes sense.”
“Now the smelter has come on board we are saving BHP Billiton a considerable amount of money in transport alone. If something does fail we can immediately respond because all the tools are already there and it is only a matter of getting our personnel to the mine site.”
“Rod Stobart, Coates Hire Shutdown & Project Manager, West, runs a team of Coates Hire specialists who look after the shutdowns for our customers.Two to four employees work day and night shifts at each shutdown. BHP Billiton brings in contractors to perform the maintenance and we provide the tools and equipment they need,” Rebbeck says.
“With the experience we have gathered we have a really good idea of what will be needed. After every shutdown we have debrief meetings so that we can take learnings away from the process. With the support of the Industrial Services team, our service to BHP Billiton has lifted.
“Rod Stobart and his team provide improvements from their experience with other shutdowns, which helps us deliver continuous improvement with tooling, methodologies, cost savings and safety.”
In Rebbeck’s view, “The shutdowns have been so successful mainly because our experienced team running them are experts in the tools and equipment they supply and the focus on customer service by the Roxby branch is second to none.
"It's our frontline operational staff that ensure the shutdowns run smoothly and they have been responsible for the ongoing success of the operation."
A few months ago Coates Hires resources were put to the test by an unplanned shutdown at the Olympic Dam site.
“There was a failure in one of their furnaces and they rang us on a Sunday morning for urgent assistance,” he recalls.
“Rod Stobart deployed members of his team from Western Australia immediately and had them up at the site on the Monday morning. The shutdown container was up and running by middle of the day.”
As well as the containers of tools situated on the mine site permanently and the Coates Hire branch in Roxby Downs, BHP Billiton and its contractors know they can also rely on the huge nation-wide resources of Coates Hire for a wide range of equipment.
“At short notice for that shutdown we were able to deliver diesel equipment including boom lifts, compressors and generators,” Rebbeck says. “I think it’s accurate to say that BHP Billiton wouldn’t consider doing a shutdown without us these days.”