The expansion of WA’s lithium mining and processing industry means there’s a lot of work for a full-service equipment hire company.
As Western Australia goes through an estimated seven-fold increase in its lithium output, including a commitment to processing and refining lithium hydroxide, the contractors building the new mines and plants need a full suite of hire services.

Liz Wright, Coates Hire Major Project Manager – WA, says the Bunbury branch is experiencing a busy run as it resources well-known lithium companies such as Talison, MinRes, Ablemarle, Tianqi and SQM expand their capacity to process lithium.

Coates Hire is supplying to more than 30 contractor groups, that are working on large and complex lithium processing construction sites around areas south of, and inland from, Perth.

She says the works being carried out in the lithium industry involve a lot of trades who require not only a full range of equipment and tools but also need full on-site servicing and in many cases, training.

“The contractors typically need industrial equipment such as boom lifts, generators, compressors, torque tools and site accommodations,” says Wright. “At the Talison site at Kwinana there were 750 people working there from ten contractor groups.”

She says most of the contractors use Coates Hire equipment because of the company’s systems, equipment and support.

“The contractors have to get their work done to schedule so other contractors can come in and complete their own work,” says Wright. “It’s tight timetables. We give on-site support so if equipment breaks down, we fix it quickly or replace it. Our customers can’t have too much downtime.”

Wright says the strength of the Coates Hire offering extends to its large transport fleet which gives the company the flexibility to meet customers’ urgent demands and also gives customers the peace of mind that their unexpected requirements can be met.

She says the larger contractor groups use the Coates Hire online portal system - MyCoatesHire - to manage their hire equipment, and the Coates Hire management systems take care of compliance.

“There’s a lot of compliance paperwork for risk assessments, test-and-tags and verifying service histories, before equipment can be cleared for use on these sites,” says Wright. “We manage all of the documentation and the paper trails so when the equipment is delivered, it’s ready to be used.”

She says it is not unusual for Coates Hire to pick up more hire contracts as the project advances, because the company’s equipment is serviced on-site which brings more orders from other contractors.

“We assign a self-contained service truck to the projects, and our service people are inducted to each contractor’s works,” says Wright. “The equipment is just the beginning – our customers also need service, support and management.”

The other service they need from Coates Hire is training.

“The processing facilities can be quite elevated and the contractors want their tradespeople to be safe and efficient,” says Wright. “At one of the largest processing plant expansions, the electricians were working on wiring and cabling at 20 metres.”

She says in that instance 70 contract electricians were put through ‘work at height’ training on knuckle booms and elevated work platforms and were given VOCs, or Verification of Competency certificates.

“Our customers have a variety of needs on-site, which certainly begins with the best-of-breed equipment but it extends to transport, servicing, training and all of the safety compliance and tracking work that has to be done before a contractor can work on these sites. Western Australia’s resources industry is expanding its processing capacity at the moment and we’re very busy servicing that market because we make life easier for our customers.”

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