When we think of four wheel driving just about anywhere in the world we think of driving over rough terrain and almost none of us would think of driving a 4×4 underground. But then most of us aren’t gold miners like Roger Hicks.
One of the country’s largest gold mines is capitalising on the toughness and durability of approximately 80 Toyota vehicles on a daily basis.
Cadia Valley Operations is located 25km south-west of Orange in central western New South Wales.
It has a light vehicle fleet that mainly comprises LandCruiser 78 and 79 Series, as well as some LandCruiser 100 Series wagons, which live up to their solid reputation in the tough mining environment.
The facility comprises the Cadia Hill open-cut mine and the Ridgeway underground mine.
Cadia’s light vehicle supervisor, Roger Hicks, says the naturally aspirated diesel LandCruisers (the only type in use at the mine) usually travel around 7000 kilometres a month.
“The LandCruisers are constantly in the pit and underground, encountering all sorts of unsealed and rough surfaces,” says Hicks.
The LandCruisers are retired when running costs start peaking due to the extreme conditions and their non-stop use; usually between 150,000 and 170,000km, although it is not uncommon for some to clock 200,000km.
“Running costs are so important here; we have to choose vehicles that will handle the conditions best and have the most readily available parts,” says Hicks.
“For us, that vehicle is the LandCruiser.”
The mine has recently opened its own dedicated $500,000 service facility, complete with heated floors, to care for the service requirements of its vehicles on site which Roger Hicks sees as a huge advantage.
“Vehicle downtime costs a lot of money and this facility allows us to minimise it” he says.
“We have four to five mechanics working at any time, and we rely on our partnership with Toyota through the West Orange Motors dealership.”
Last financial year, Cadia Valley Operations produced nearly 700,000 ounces of gold, the second best result for a gold mine in Australia.
It also currently places a strong emphasis on copper production, due to the mineral’s high price and increasing demand for it from the Chinese market.
Copper production last year amounted to approximately 72,000 tonnes.
Cadia Valley Operations and its operator, Newcrest Mining, are currently in the midst of feasibility studies that could see the mine in operation for up to another 40 years.
It is also envisaging new open-cut and underground mines that would form Cadia East, within the existing Mining Lease Area of Cadia Valley Operations.