Driving change underground at Darlot

Red 5 purchased two Kovatera UT99 trucks for the Darlot mine.

Drivetrain Australia, an Engenco company, has pledged its support in ensuring Red 5 unlocks the maximum potential of two brand-new Kovatera UT99 underground utility vehicles that were delivered to the Darlot mine in November last year.

The Darlot mine has been a producing gold operation in the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia for more than 30 years.

Owned by Australian gold mining company Red 5, Darlot features a strong and proud heritage within the state’s mining history.

That heritage has often led to its operators ‘sticking to their roots’ with a number of on-site methods and solutions.

Until recently, alternate heavy duty light vehicles had been part of the mine’s underground light vehicle fleet.

Many of these conventional brands have been affiliated with miners for decades due to their ability to withstand the harsh, hot and barren conditions of the state’s regional areas.

But these vehicles have remained relatively unchanged for the better half of the last 40 years.

And while the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ moniker rings true, longer lasting and more fuel-efficient options have emerged.

Red 5 maintenance superintendent for the Darlot mine, Geoff Hart, set out to find a more cost-effective and dependent alternative for the site’s underground operations.

“Red 5 is a company that likes to look at alternative options,” Hart tells Australian Mining.

“One of the things that we looked at was in regards to underground light vehicles. The use of alternate heavy duty light vehicles is not something that I see as a sustainable option going forward.

“They are expensive, and the service life of them is somewhat limited.”

Drivetrain Australia and Kovatera worked with Red 5 to maximise the machine’s capabilities.


The Kovatera UT99 utility vehicle first struck Hart as a replacement for the site’s ageing light vehicle fleet.

“In the underground environment, we need something a bit stronger and a bit beefier and the Kovatera certainly jumped out when I initially saw them,” Hart says.

The UT99 in particular features a reliable and fuel-efficient diesel engine. Due to its 10-year service life, and potential savings of almost half a million dollars over the life of the vehicle compared with the previous light vehicle models used, Red 5 purchased two UT99 trucks from Drivetrain Australia in November last year.

“The underground environment is extremely hard on light vehicles and they cost a lot of money to keep going. You need them and you simply cannot operate without them,” Hart says.

“So, to find a solution that ticked all the boxes that we were looking for, we think we found it with the Kovatera.”

The UT99 is a relatively new product in Australia. As is the case with most new products, it needed to be adapted to Australia’s conditions – particularly the underground conditions at Darlot.

As a result, some initial overheating and axle issues had to be addressed.

Dedicated to looking after its customers, Drivetrain Australia and Kovatera came to the aid of Red 5 and Hart, with each party showing persistence to get the machine into its optimal state.

“Kovatera and Drivetrain have been absolutely fantastic in working with us to get all these solved,” Hart says.

“Any issues we’ve had, they’ve been straight on it and we’ve pretty much nailed all of the issues.”

After the combined efforts of Drivetrain, Kovatera and Red 5, the two UT99s were up and running at the site.

Drivetrain has provided an extensive amount of support towards Red 5, including a training program for the vehicles and continued over-the-phone and on-site services as required.

“It shows me that Drivetrain well and truly stands behind their product,” Hart says.

“You can’t fault the way it was rolled out and you can’t fault the service that we’ve got from the guys. It’s been really good.”

Hart, who will consider purchasing more UT99 trucks next year, has also recommended the machines to another mine site.

Drivetrain Australian national mining business development manager Joel Mathews helped achieve the positive outcome with the UT99.

“We’re very fortunate that we hit the nail on the head,” Mathews says. “Some companies dig their heels in when obstacles present, Drivetrain do the opposite; we dive headfirst into these problems. It was a process of elimination where we identified where we thought the issues were coming from.”

“We’re really appreciative of the effort and support we received from Red 5 at Darlot.”

This article also appears in the October issue of Australian Mining.

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