Isuzu’s miner suc­cess

It takes a spe­cial truck to move work­ers into a mine, writes GRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport -

THE Bei­jing gold rush might be done and dusted, but the search for the pre­cious metal con­tin­ues un­abated in the cen­tral Vic­to­rian town of Stawell, where Isuzu is con­tribut­ing to the min­ing ef­fort.

Gold min­ing is a highly so­phis­ti­cated process to­day; there’s none of the cradling, pud­dling or tin dish wash­ing the old-timers used.

To­day’s min­ers, like North­gate Min­er­als Cor­po­ra­tion, which op­er­ates one of the deep­est de­clin­eac­cessed mines in Aus­tralia in Stawell, use hi-tech, heavy in­dus­trial ma­chin­ery and well-trained sup­port staff and en­gi­neers to ex­tract the valu­able metal.

The Stawell re­gion has yielded more than five mil­lion ounces of gold with a value of more than $4 bil­lion, of which North­gate Min­er­als has ex­tracted 1.9 mil­lion ounces since re­open­ing the mine in 1982.

Get­ting to the gold is made eas­ier and safer with a cus­tomised Isuzu NPS 300 4x4 crew cab truck, which trans­ports min­ers and sup­port staff to var­i­ous sites un­der­ground and from the sur­face to the mine.

It’s a tough op­er­a­tion. The truck works fully loaded for about 80 or 90 per cent of the time while driv­ing up or down steep gra­di­ents.

The Isuzu plies the mine ac­cess de­cline, which is on a 1:8 gra­di­ent and ex­tends about 12km to a depth of 1.3km.

Ac­cord­ing to mine main­te­nance su­per­vi­sor Mal McCombe, reli­a­bil­ity is one of the main re­quire­ments.

‘‘Reli­a­bil­ity is the most im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion with the per­son­nel car­rier we use to trans­port our min­ers and sup­port staff to and around the mine,’’ he says.

‘‘Be­cause the ve­hi­cle is driv­ing up or down gra­di­ents in its life­time, a lot of stress is placed on its sus­pen­sion, be­cause it’s as­cend­ing or de­scend­ing the ac­cess de­cline 90 per cent of the time.’’

McCombe says the Isuzu’s en­gine and five-speed man­ual gear­box com­fort­ably han­dles the con­tin­u­ous climbs, but it has had to be mod­i­fied to suit the spe­cial­ist re­quire­ments of the harsh con­di­tions.

Work­ing con­stantly in wet and hu­mid con­di­tions meant the Isuzu needed ex­tra rust pro­tec­tion, larger mud flaps and an on­board sup­pres­sion sys­tem.

Ex­tra sound­proof­ing was added to the cabin, and a spe­cial per­son­nel car­rier was fit­ted to the rear to make the 20-minute jour­ney from the sur­face to the mine is as comfortable and quiet as pos­si­ble.

‘‘The sup­port crews and staff in the mine work pretty long hours and the last thing they want com­ing off a 12-hour shift is to hear the noise of ma­chin­ery. So far they have been very com­pli­men­tary about the Isuzu,’’ McCombe says.

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Solid gold: the Isuzu NPR per­son­nel car­rier has been spe­cially mod­i­fied for min­ing con­di­tions.

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