Aug 4 2014
A new Timetric survey finds that 30% of Australian mine and procurement managers expect to cut back spending on plant and heavy equipment over the remainder of 2014 and early 2015. This share is higher than in other areas of purchasing, such as parts, maintenance and consumables.
For example, only 16% anticipate a reduction in explosives, blasting and chemicals, and 19% for equipment consumables. This is also balanced by 20% expecting to increase expenditures on explosives, blasting and chemicals and 19% on equipment consumables. The results demonstrate both the downturn in the Australian mining industry, and also the movement from an expansion phase into a production phase.
Large companies most likely to cut spending
The survey results also show that respondents from larger companies are most likely to cut spending on plant and heavy equipment. Some 47% of respondents from companies with revenues above US$10 billion, and 41% of those with revenues between US$1-10 billion expect to reduce spending on plant and heavy equipment. These two groups of companies include the likes of BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Glencore Xstrata and Peabody Energy. As these companies typically have multiple mines within their portfolios, they are able to ramp up and down different operations based on market conditions.
These bigger companies, many of which are coal producers, have been hit particularly hard by the downturn in commodity prices. However, unlike their smaller peers with revenue below US$1 billion and typically single-mine companies, they can close, and have been closing, unprofitable mines, or sections of mines.
Miners prefer to use OEMs for strategic parts
Many mining operations rely heavily on key pieces of specialised equipment for the majority of their mine's production, for example long walls and excavators. Given this backdrop the majority of Australian miners prefer to work with their OEM. 97% of respondents purchase strategic parts, such as engines and ground engaging tools, wholly or partially from the OEM. This compares with 78% choosing their OEM for non-strategic parts, even with the prospect of lower prices from third parties.
This preference for working with OEMs is further emphasised by lifecycle management contracts being the preferred service contract among Australian miners. They favour this not just for aftermarket support but also for the sense of shared investment that miners feel a lifecycle management contract provides. Timetric's results confirm recent investments made by major OEMs to increase their aftermarket servicing capability. Joy Global built a designated servicing facility in NSW in 2012 and emphasises its Smart Services Solutions. Meanwhile Sandvik opened a new repair and remanufacturing centre in Orange, New South Wales, in May 2014, with the stated aim of improving their aftermarket service.
Autonomous vehicles accepted underground and in iron ore mining
The use of driverless trucks has been generally accepted in Australia's iron ore industry. Cliff Smee, lead analyst at Timetric, says: "While much press focus has been on the use of autonomous vehicles at surface mining in iron ore operations, the real use of automation has been in underground operations where Load-Haul-Dump loaders have been operating since 1990." The three major iron ore producers, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group, have all introduced the technology to their operations, with plans for expansion.
Investment expected in environment monitoring and equipment health technology
Environmental monitoring and emissions management, as well as equipment health monitoring and diagnostics, are also on top of the list for planned investments. Out of twelve technologies investigated, environmental monitoring and emissions management had the highest share of respondents planning to invest at 35%, with only 10% of respondents neither having this technology at their mines, nor considering investing in the next two years. Some 34% are also planning to invest in equipment health monitoring and diagnostics, as mining companies look to maximise the lifetime of their heavy equipment.
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