Watch it Come Down

Liberty Industrial

That has been the task facing Rio Tinto as it prepares to dismantle its HIsmelt pig iron plant at Kwinana, south of Perth, for shipping and rebuilding in China. For this process, Rio Tinto chose Sydney-based Liberty Industrial, a leading provider of specialist demolition contracting services to the mining, heavy industrial and power generation industries.

‘Industrial deconstruction’ is not just a fancy way of saying ‘knocking things down’, and one of the reasons for Liberty Industrial’s pre-eminence is its structured and scientific approach to the business of removing assets at the end of their useful life. However, even for Liberty, the HIsmelt project is a big step, not least because of the care that needs to be taken over the deconstruction of an asset that is to be rebuilt a continent away.

The job, concerning most of the main components of the plant, is now in progress with a likely timeframe of around one and a half years to completion. Liberty has moved an impressive array of equipment to Kwinana for the project, including a 280-tonne, a 250-tonne and a 150-tonne mobile crane on site. For the demolition work, there is large custom-built machinery including a 230-tonne Liebherr 994 with 14t custom-made grapple attachment, the largest grapple ever built for an excavator of this type, and the largest demolition excavator in Australia.

The project will also utilise a 120-tonne Hitachi as well as smaller 70-tonne Volvos with a variety of attachments, notably the Genesis shears which take care of the cutting and processing of the steelwork on the site. In terms of deconstruction for re-use, Liberty believes this is probably the largest project ever undertaken in Australia and as such is a completely different proposition to a demolition job.

Most of the equipment listed was already in Western Australia, having been used on the HBI project at Port Hedland (please see sidebar for further details). The machinery is surprisingly portable – the 230-tonner, for example, fits into seven low loaders and can be trucked right across the country to the east coast for its next assignment if required, although the situation in WA suggests it may remain there for some time to come. The HBI Boodarie project earned Liberty Industrial a finalist’s spot (one of four) in the improbably-named World Demolition awards late last year in Amsterdam – the first time an Australian company has been so honoured.

An important part of the Liberty service is the company’s immensely sophisticated 3D modelling. Extreme Loading Software (ELS) from Applied Science International (ASI) is a unique simulation technology for three dimensionally modelling and analysing the demolition of structures subjected to extreme loads: terrorist attack, bomb blasts, earthquakes, cyclonic force winds and other unplanned disasters. Liberty Industrial is the exclusive Australian agent for this breakthrough technology.

In the case of HBI Boodarie, the modelling enabled Liberty to refine its methods and show the client the resulting successful outcome well in advance of undertaking any physical work. The application of ELS technology on the HBI project was a key factor in ensuring the structures were demolished in a safe and efficient manner. This software and its forecasting ability also acts as a vital extra component in health and safety issues, enabling the company to spot any potential hidden dangers or risk and enhancing its track record for dealing with an inherently risky business in as safe a manner as possible.

Where Liberty Industrial shines is in putting its services at a level a few rungs above where the demolition industry generally is, to provide a truly professional service to clients in high risk industries. The company has been involved, for example, in innovation at Olympic Dam, where it worked for BHP in a variety of capacities. The team began by doing some demolition work in a tricky and dangerous situation and then addressed a problem wherein BHP had a large amount of copper that had been spilled on the floors of the furnaces over the years – around 2,000 tonnes of pure copper in thicknesses from 100mm to around 350mm – which was well worth recapturing.

Liberty designed and built a special copper saw that fits on an excavator and was able to cut the copper and process 2,000 tonnes in about four weeks, generating around $20 million for the client. In this way – and many more – Liberty demonstrates that it is capable of demolishing a few myths about the demolition industry.

Strategic Resources

There are 17 classified rare earth elements, many of which have strategic purposes. Rare in name only, these elements are anything but scarce as they are found all over the world. The challenge rare earth elements pose is during extraction, as they exist in low concentrations and are difficult to separate from one another.

August 20, 2017, 10:22 AM AEST