Universe providing Roxors for mining industry
June 3, 2020, 9:43 am
Rocanville’s Universe Satellite Sales is filling a need for Saskatchewan potash mines—the company is providing vehicles to transport people underground at the massive potash mines at Rocanville and Esterhazy.
Owner Stan Langley says that as soon as he saw his first Roxor he knew the vehicle would work for the mines, and the vehicles are being modified in Rocanville to meet the precise needs of the mining industry.
“We have supplied other vehicles to work underground like the Kioti’s, and I had been after the manufacturers to build a vehicle specifically for the mines, but they didn’t because it costs a lot of money to design some for the mines,” he says.
“A friend of mine wanted us to get into selling Roxors because he wanted to buy one, but we didn’t really want to take on another line, and when he went and bought one in Alberta he came home and he says ‘you got to come out and have a look at this.’ We drove down there and had a look at it. As soon as I walked in the door I said ‘holy, that is exactly what the mine needs.’
“So we went after the dealership, got it right away, and the first thing we did is we got a couple guys from the mine to come in and said ‘if you could build a perfect mine vehicle, what would you do to this vehicle?’
“The first thing they said was it was a little too high so you would need to get it lowered, which we did by changing out to smaller wheels. You would need all the lights for underground, and need the scrubbers for the exhaust. They said you need different bumpers because everyone is going to bump into the wall—they are going to bust the taillights and everything on it.
“So we just took all the notes, and then I got Scott Norton down who was involved in building some of the first mine vehicles when Sylvite was first doing it when he worked for Goodman’s. (Sylvite of Canada first developed the Rocanville potash mine.)
“He designed the front and rear bumpers for us and he started making them for us and we got the first one down underground at Rocanville, and they like it. It hasn’t been underground for a year yet and I think it has around 36,000 km on it.”
Universe’s modified Roxors are now underground at both Nutrien Rocanville and Mosaic Esterhazy mines.
“We’ve got five at Nutrien and one at Mosaic, and I’m sure we’ll have more—it’s just a matter of time,” said Langley. “They are quite a bit less money than some of the other vehicles they are using. They’ve been really dependable. We’ve changed a couple light bulbs and a speedometer and other than that they’ve been working really good.”
How much customization goes into the vehicles?
“We put on the heavy duty front and rear bumpers, we change the batteries in them, and the ignition comes out of them. We put in a push button start and do away with the key on them,” explains Langley.
“We put light bars on them. We put a scrubber system on the exhaust. We put on the tow hitch and now they can actually tow with them now, so we’re actually putting electric brakes on them as well now. Plus they have all the warning lights on them, and we put the reflective tape on them. We do a fair bit of work to them to make them mine ready.”
The bumpers come off to get the vehicles down into the mine.
“The bumpers have to be off them when they put them down in Rocanville,” said Langley. “They are exactly 144 inches if we take the bumpers and taillights off, which makes it really nice for them—they fit right in the man cage and down they go.”
Langley said Roxor is 100 per cent behind his efforts to get the vehicles into the mines.
“Roxor is right behind us,” he said. “They’ve actually had one of their guys from California, one guy from Edmonton and another guy from Ontario come out and they actually toured both Mosaic Esterhazy and Nutrien Rocanville underground and talked to the people that were running them and they just said ‘Okay, what would you change if you could do anything to them?’ and they had a couple ideas. We were actually supposed to meet a couple other guys. We are going to be going down to Detroit to meet with them and sit with the engineers and spend a couple days right at Roxor where they are building these things and talk to all their engineers, but Covid-19 came along, so that got put on hold.”
Langley said he believes the potential for the vehicles is huge in the mining industry and other industries.
“The potential is huge,” he said. “CP Rail is actually starting to use them in their yards. They are putting cabs and air conditioning in and they outlast the half tons because half tons are not meant for that type of terrain. There are some mines in B.C. that have taken them underground. We’ve had a lot of the dealers from the U.S. call and say ‘what are you doing to these things to make them mine ready?’ So I think the potential is really big because of the simple fact that we can probably do them for a third of the price of some of the bigger man carriers.”
Langley said he sees lots of potential for more businesses in the region to develop products for the mining industry.
“There is probably lots of economic development potential around the mines. You just need to find out what they need. They are buying product from all over the world. This is the niche that I found, but I’m sure there are other things that businesses could provide locally for the mines. It’s no different than agriculture. Everybody grows wheat and there is no reason why they couldn’t be milling wheat around here and making flour, but we send it all away.
“I think there is lots of potential for different things around the mine. This is our niche and we’re filling a need for the mining industry, and I think there’s also potential for the farming industry because the ranchers are buying these things up like crazy.”