The next step will be for the draft standard to be scrutinised by interested parties for public comment before the standard is ratified.
Abye Mining Vehicles successfully revived the concept of converting commercial diesel vehicles for use in the rugged underground coal environment. Based on the Toyota Landcruiser model range, the modified vehicles (AMVs) were trialled at Queensland mines between 1997 and 2000. Initially they were allowed to operate in Queensland under a series of exemptions until regulations were amended to make provision for them.
Some 15 AMVs have been successfully introduced into four Queensland mining operations, with New Zealand mine Huntley purchasing three vehicles recently. Rental machines are now being built in the hope that contractors can use them on projects.
AMVs have not been allowed to operate in NSW as the state's regulations make no provision for widespread use of non-explosion protected vehicles as seen in Queensland, however, BHP Billiton did run a limited trial of a one-off, specially built machine in 2003. A national standard should provide some harmony between practices governing the use of non-explosion protected vehicles in underground coal mines, and should clear the way for their introduction into NSW.
Abye director, Terry O'Beirne (who was on the sub-committee which drafted the standard) said Abye is in discussions with two NSW mining companies and the NSW Department of Mineral Resources to run a trial of its AMVs.
"Abye expects that a NSW trial is likely during the first half of this calendar year, subject to regulator’s approval," O'Beirne said.
An important inclusion in the draft standard is provision for the first time for engines built by overseas manufacturers that are certified to EPA Tier 2 certification, to be acceptable for use in underground coal mines. Further emission testing will probably not be required, depending on the level of local modifications.
Once the standard is ratified, both states will be able to review their legislation and decide if extra regulations are warranted.