Mine Fox fills void for mid-price mine carriers
Two-thirds the cost of a Land Cruiser
Tramin Mine Services hopes that its Mine Fox, now in development and testing, will create a whole new market in Canada for mid-priced mine trucks.
Tramin CEO Gordon Martin said that in the market currently there are low-end UTVs and tractors, and high-end vehicles such as the modified Toyota Land Cruiser.
The Mine Fox will be a full-size, four- door, four or five person dedicated transport that should be about two-thirds the cost of a Land Cruiser, Martin said.
“We found that there was a bit of a void in the market for a four-door personnel carrier. There wasn’t really a product in the middle that was somewhat cost effective that wasn’t (an existing vehicle converted for mining use).”
The vehicle chassis comes from a Chinese manufacturer, Beijing Automobile Works (BAW), which accounts for much of the cost savings.
They are imported into the U.S. by Genco Mine Services of Huntington, Utah.
Genco uses BAW’s military line of vehicles – the BJ2020 and the BJ2032 – as the basis for its line of mine trucks in the United States.
Tramin and Genco are working together to develop the Mine Fox from this line. Tramin is the exclusive Genco distributor in Ontario and Manitoba.
Martin said that he first saw Genco’s vehicle in 2000, but it wasn’t until recently that he considered adapting it for Canadian use.
Tramin is known primarily for its mine staffing services, but recent competition in the market prompted the company to diversify its business.
Another reason for the move, Martin said, was that he felt customer confidence in Chinese-made vehicles is higher now than it was 12 years ago.
Genco has sold about 400 vehicles in the U.S., so it is a proven vehicle, he said. Only the body is made in China.
The drive axles and transmissions are made in the U.S., and the diesel engines are made in Japan (Isuzu), Germany (Deutz), or the U.S. (Cummins).
Tramin itself is also better prepared to produce and support the vehicle today, Martin said. In 2010, the company opened a 5,000-square foot light industrial fabrication and welding shop at its headquarters in Atikokan, 200 kilometres west of Thunder Bay.
Tramin uses the shop for testing and development of the Mine Fox prototype.
Low cost, mechanically friendly
Cost likely won’t be the only motivating factor for buyers. Part of what will make the truck so attractive, Martin said, is that it will be easy to maintain and fix.
“The mechanics who are working on them have limited tools, so it has to be really mechanically friendly… it has to be easy for them to troubleshoot problems. This truck has its own custommade wiring harness, in-dash circuit breakers, over-the-shelf light switches – and no computers.
“Keep it light, keep it simple,” he said.
The current line of Genco vehicles is designed for coal mining and other softrock mining.
Right now, the company is experimenting with different configurations to ensure the Tramin line will meet Ontario operating and emissions standards as well as the needs of hardrock mining.
One major difference is that hardrock mining tends to involve steeper driving surfaces, therefore requiring better braking systems.
Tramin is trying to find an internal braking system suitable for the truck size because most systems are designed for larger, heavier vehicles, Martin said.
“For us right now, the braking system is paramount. We’re trying to get internal wet disc brakes that will be a cost-effective alternative. There are heavy-duty axles that are available, but it’s a like three-ton axle under your GMC Sonoma. Genco is working with some brake suppliers that hopefully will be able to offer some cost-effective alternatives to the braking systems currently available.”
Martin said that Tramin and Genco are developing the prototype to meet the needs of one potential buyer: Goldcorp, and particularly its Musselwhite Mine.
“We’re going to offer it in a base model geared towards the Goldcorp standard, and then anything over and above that will be available as an option.”
Martin said that the Mine Fox would be suitable for use in any Ontario underground mines. He added that there are plans to move into Manitoba as well.
Martin was reluctant to predict a release date, stating that the truck itself is still in development. However, he said he hoped to have a prototype testing in a mine by the New Year, and to be able to start taking orders sometime in 2013.
The Mine Fox will be available for sale, rent, or lease, Martin said, and backed by full-service support. “We feel pretty strongly about it, and we’re investing a lot of resources into it,” he said.