Dream still alive
Tuesday, 29th March, 2016
By Andrew Robertson
The would-be creator of a purpose-built light mine vehicle says he still hopes to one day bring his revolutionary prototype into production.
More than a decade ago Steve Holmes saw an opportunity to improve on the ubiquitous commercial light vehicles being driven around mine sites everywhere.
So the Broken Hill business owner drew on decades of experience in metal fabrication and knowledge of the mining industry to come up with his own take on the light underground vehicle.
The result was the ‘UG Max’ - a multi-purpose vehicle designed from the ground up to cope with the rigors of mine work and, more importantly, underground duties.
Mr Holmes, who owns Silver City Steel, even got his project to the prototype stage, telling the BDT in 2012 that after some more testing he was hoping to bring it into production by the year’s end.
But almost four years later and the vehicle is no closer to being finished.
“It’s just one of those things, when I started doing it mining was booming and then two years later it fell in a bit of a hole, and been in a hole ever since,” Mr Holmes explained.
He was forced to mothball the project that had consumed so many hours and so much of his money after initial interest shown by some mining companies evaporated.
But if the downturn has put paid to his plans of producing the vehicle for now, Mr Holmes hasn’t given up on his dream.
“I definitely haven’t given up on it. Everyone who’s looked at it has been impressed, to say the least.
“This product is the answer for the future use of light vehicles underground.”
A number of differences set Mr Holmes’ vehicle apart from the mass-manufactured 4WD Toyotas and Nissans currently used to transport people and equipment around mine sites.
For instance, everything susceptible to corrosion or damage - like the radiator, alternator and air-conditioning - is set high off the ground, away from water and mud.
It is also a true multi-purpose vehicle, with the modules, trays able to be changed out quickly, depending on the application. Even the cabins can be changed over in the event of damage.
With the bulk of the work now done on the project, Mr Holmes said he was well placed to make his move when conditions in the mining industry finally improved.
“It’s really only refinement now; it’s all there, and it works and does everything I wanted it to do.”
So if the businessman gets his way the UG Max may yet be the vehicle of choice on mine sites around Australia and possibly beyond.
“We just have to wait and see what the mining industry does.
“If the price of base metals goes up and there’s more confidence out there ... that would be the time to put it out there.”