Moving earth

Use for Michelin's Earthmover tires: Rigid dump trucks. Used at more than 1,300 mining operations around the world

Cost: An online search found a Michelin REM-2 radial Earthmover and Loader Tire with 73-inch diameter (about 6 feet) and a 29-inch width was priced at just under $4,700, wheel not included.

More jumbo-sized tires will be rolling through the Port of Charleston from the Upstate next year.

The source is Michelin North America, which marks the opening its newest South Carolina tire plant Thursday. It's the company's ninth manufacturing site in the state.

The 800,000-square-foot Anderson County factory will produce Michelin's "Earthmover" tires, which will be primarily be shipped overseas through the State Ports Authority cargo terminals, officials said Wednesday.

"We will see an increase in tire exports through Charleston in 2014," said Peter Straub, the Michelin's manager of international transportation.

Demand for the tires, which can be as large as 13 feet in diameter and weigh 5.5 tons each, is up more than 20 percent since 2009, company officials have said.

Straub said about 80 percent of all exports from Anderson will flow through Port of Charleston, reaching every continent except Antarctica.

The new factory makes South Carolina the largest producer of Michelin earthmover mining tires in the world, officials said.

Until now, the company has been making the circular behemoths at a factory in Lexington County, which also is being expanded to increase production. The Midlands project and the Upstate factory combined represent 500 jobs and a capital investment of $750 million, the company and state officials said last year.

The heavy-duty tires are used at rugged mining and quarry operations in places such as South America and Australia. They're transported overseas in open-top shipping containers.

The oversized tires are already a fairly common sight at the SPA's terminals in Charleston. Along with Michelin, South Carolina is home to other tire manufacturers, such as Bridgestone and Continental.

All three companies either are now using or will use the Port of Charleston for shipping products, according to the maritime agency.

From November 2012 through October, South Carolina tire exports and imports accounted for, respectively, the equivalent of 16,853 and 34,162 20-foot-long shipping containers, officials said.

"The automotive cluster in general and tire companies in particular provide importing and exporting benefits for the port, creating a win-win impact on maritime commerce and industry jobs," said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SPA.

Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.