Mining and exploration company, Kalium Lakes, has added five new IVECO ASTRA vehicles to its operations at Newman in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
As Australia’s only producer of high-grade sulphate of potash (SOP), a bulk product used in farming fertiliser both domestically and as an export commodity, Kalium Lakes, which is ASX-listed, has invested in the fleet of IVECO 6×6 ASTRA prime movers to coincide with the latest harvest.
SOP is developed through a multi-stage process, beginning with the extraction of brine from the lower aquafer using bores.
From here it is pumped through a series of ponds to promote evaporation, before being harvested using large milling machines and delivered to an onsite purification facility which converts the salts into premium SOP products.
The trucks feature 13-litre engines producing 520hp and 2400Nm, are coupled to roadtrain trailer sets and operate at between 90 to 100 tonnes GVM, although, given the mass rating, can accommodate 130 tonnes if required.
Travelling slowly alongside the milling machines, the trucks are filled on the move by the harvesters, before transferring the salt to the purification facility for processing.
With the first of the five units now in operation for several months, Kalium Lakes Non-Executive Director, Brent Smoothy, said the vehicles which are owned by his company K19 Mining, and being leased to Kalium Lakes, had delivered many benefits.
“We had been using American trucks for this task but after having come across the ASTRA, we thought it would be a better fit for this application,” he said.
“Initially some of the drivers were a bit skeptical of making the shift, but after spending some time using the ASTRAs, they now simply wouldn’t go back.”
With hub reduction to all three axles as well as triple differential locks, the ASTRA, featuring an Allison full automatic transmission, provides impressive traction when required.
“At times the conditions can become quite sloppy during harvesting, so the 6×6 drive gives us added peace of mind,” said Smoothy.
“The full automatic is also easy to use – we run the trucks at idle alongside the harvester for loading and you don’t have to worry about the clutch. The trucks’ turning circle is also impressive, all up the ASTRAs are easy to use, comfortable and great on fuel.”
Operating 12 hours per day on single shifts, the trucks rarely travel over 50 kilometres per hour or cover long distances, however the operating environment is tough, with outback temperatures regularly sitting in the 40s.
“Most days you can’t put your hand on the outside of the truck body, it’s too hot and it will burn,” said Smoothy.
“The ASTRAs handle the conditions easily though, we’ve never had any cooling issues.”
Maintenance is handled in-house by Kalium Lakes’ own workshop. IVECO provides assistance when needed.
“The ASTRAs are well-built and robust to handle the conditions, all components are also easily accessible for maintenance and for cleaning which is important given they operate in a salty environment,” said Smoothy.
Kalium Lakes is steadily increasing its operations. Having recently entered a third stage of expansion, the ASTRA fleet will likely grow in the coming months.
“The trucks are performing very well. We’ll continue to use them and grow a uniform ASTRA fleet,” Smoothy said.
“We also see the ASTRAs as being quite versatile, once they reach their planned 20,000 hour operating cycle in this role, I think they’d be perfect as a fertiliser spreader giving them a second life.”