Isuzu’s miner success
It takes a special truck to move workers into a mine, writes GRAHAMSMITH
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.
Solid gold: the Isuzu NPR personnel carrier has been specially modified for mining conditions.