Heavy haulage in the Pilbara

As Western Australia's mines expand, they're demanding more from haulage companies and local infrastructure, writes Andrew Duffy.

As Western Australia's mines expand, they're demanding more from haulage companies and local infrastructure, writes Andrew Duffy. 

Watching heavy machinery in action on a mine site can be a rather transfixing experience. 

Few industries can match the sheer scale of the mining sector and the size of the equipment it demands. And as production rates grow higher and higher, equipment grows larger and larger. 

While many people are impressed by the scale of equipment, few spare a thought for how it made it there in the first place. 

Whether its machinery, equipment or buildings, most of the stuff on site needs to slowly and carefully find its way there. 

And a lot of this new movement, like everything else in the industry, is starting to centre around the Pilbara region. 
Some of the expansions by iron ore companies in this region are immense, and starting to put heavy demands on local infrastructure and businesses to meet their needs. 

A number of traffic control companies specialising in moving heavy equipment are now capitalising on this increase. 

A1 Labour Management, which specialises in traffic control and moving equipment for mining companies, has been one business to see a sharp rise in demand from Pilbara miners.

Wayne O'Neil from A1 Labour Management told Logistics & Materials Handling some of the Pilbara's biggest players, including BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group, had been driving the rise in mining's heavy haulage. 
O'Neil said developments further south had also kept A1 busy. 

"With all the different expansion projects happening at the moment, from now until the end of the year we're going to be very busy with it," he said. 

"There's definitely a couple of years worth of work happening out here." 

Recently, A1 has been managing the movement of several large loads for FMG. 

"We did a lot of stuff for them with Cloudbreak and Chirstmas Creek," O'Neil explained. 

"But we've worked with a lot of different companies. We've done stuff for BHP Billiton as well as Citic Pacific. 

"In the past, we've moved equipment for the Yandi and Area C mines, and work for Jimblebar is about to start next month." 

O'Neil said demand would also rise as Hancock Prospecting's massive Roy Hill project, lead by Gina Rinehart, started construction. 

With most of this work the starting point for the equipment is Port Hedland. O'Neil said after being manufactured in China, Thailand, and other parts of Asia and the world, the equipment was shipped to the Pilbara port. 

But because of the size, moving it through the Pilbara's long narrow roads presents some challenges. 

O'Neil said sometimes the gear reached dimensions around 15 metres high and 15 metres wide, and prior to the move crews would need to clear the road to make sure the equipment would fit. And because of the safety liability, the equipment is only moved at night. 

"It's a safety issue, plus the volume of traffic is quite considerable during the day where as night it's not," O'Neil explained. 

"We mainly go down the highway at night, and it usually takes two nights to complete the delivery," he added.