In its continuous efforts to mitigate environmental risks and impact to the environment, Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML) is the first Papua New Guinean Company to venture into ‘used tyres recycling’ after it commissioned its Tyre Pyrolysis Plant (TPP) in February this year.

The new TPP cost over US$30,000 and on average processes up to three tonnes of waste tyre per burn and conducts three burns per week.

Manager Environment, Erizo Kepe said, “OTML generates approximately 1,500 tonnes of waste tyres per year, with an estimated 30,000 tonnes currently held in stockpile from the last 30 years.  Heavy equipment such as cranes, dozers and haul trucks contribute to large tyres with standing height ranging from 1.6 to 3.5m and weight ranging 450 to 3,760 kg while smaller tyres are mostly from light vehicles and other small mobile equipment.”

Global increase in demand for tyre dependent mobile equipment and vehicles has correspondingly increased the production of new tyres of all sizes. Subsequently the increasing number of waste tyre generation is becoming a waste management problem not only for OTML but globally.

Used tyres can become a major source of pollution to the environment as well as posing health hazards to humans and wildlife if not managed properly.

“End of life rubber and plastic products are now becoming a global environmental issue, and the TPP is OTML’s contribution towards addressing this issue,” Ms Kepe said.

Pyrolysis is a thermal decomposition process that involves heating of tyres in the absence of reactive gases such as oxygen. The heating process decomposes tyres into char (solid carbon), steel wire, oil and syngas.

Manager Waste Management, Hendrick Min said, “Options are being investigated to reuse the by-products including use of pyrolysis oil as a fuel substitute in OTML’s Lime Kiln plant, char as soil additive in some of the revegetation and rehabilitation projects and steel wire as scrap metal recycling through existing waste metal recycling processes.”

Waste tyres can cause harm to the Environment and human if not managed properly. Environmental harm is caused through release of toxic chemical contained in the tyres as the tyres gradually decompose or as toxic fumes when burnt. Other associated impacts at the OTML landfill where the waste tyres are stored include breeding of unwanted pests such as rats, snakes, and mosquitos.

“The tyre pyrolysis technology is new in PNG and OTML is proud to trial it and provide a learning opportunity for mining and other industries in PNG,” Mr Min said.

He said the OTML pyrolysis plant has the capacity to expand in future to cater for general plastic pyrolysis with some adjustment to the existing plant to process combustible plastics.  Continuous improvement in environmental performance is consistent with the Company’s vision to be environmentally responsible in all aspects of the business.

OTML joined the rest of the world to celebrate International World Environment Day (WED) observed on the 05th of June 2023 by staging awareness programs and activities at the mine site and the surrounding communities, mainly targeting schools in Tabubil and Kiunga.

The 2023 WED Theme is “Solutions to Plastic Pollution” and OTMLs slogan is ‘Lukautim Ples Graun – Behainim Gutpla Rot Bilong Stopim Plastik Pipia (Protect our mother Earth – Apply and follow appropriate measures to stop the generation of plastic wastes)