The Hunter Valley has always been a testing ground for the mining industry.
So when an Eastern European mining truck manufacturer wanted to make in-roads in to Australia, it saw the Hunter as the logical place.
BelAZ has now launched its new 240 tonne and 360 tonne mining trucks into the Hunter Valley, and on to Australian mines for the first time.
For a company that states one in three mining dump trucks around the world are a BelAZ, the lack of an Australian footprint is more than unusual, considering the current powerhouse the nation is within the global mining industry.
However the Belarusian machinery manufacturer is partnering with Australian firm Australasian Pacific Engineering Group (APEG) and Sharps to bring its mining equipment into Australia and provide a strong service and support network.
Speaking at the event, general director of BelAZ Petr Parkhomchyk explained that despite operating for more than half a century the company has never had a real footprint in the Australian market and that it is finally stepping into the Australian region as "now is the right time".
APEG general manager Shane Halliwell explained that it purposely chose the trough in the mining cycle.
"Some people say we are coming in at the wrong time, as the boom is slowing down, however this gives us more time to establish a stronger distribution, support, and logistics network so that we are in a better position when the industry strengthens again," he said.
APEG will have the sole distribution rights for the vehicles around Australia.
The first two trucks to hit the market are the 240 tonne 75315 and 360 tonne 75603 trucks.
Powered by MTU Detroit 4000 series or Cummins diesel engines and a choice of either a Siemens watercooled electric drive or General Electric drive, the 360 tonne version uses a 20V 4000 series engine which provides 2800 kW of power while the smaller 240 tonne version will feature a 16V 4000 with 1864kW of power.
Parkhomchyk told Ferret that the vehicles are built to Australian standards, and the factory had used Rio Tinto vehicle specs to ensure the vehicles were up to Australian mining safety standards.
Sharps Heavy Equipment director, Graham Sharp, added that "these trucks are able to work in conditions from -50°C to more than 50°C, in some of the harshest mining conditions in the world".
Parkhomchyk added that although "it meets Rio Tinto specifications; it is not specified for Rio Tinto specifically".
By using these specifications BelAZ claims the dump trucks can then be tailored to fit almost any mine site's needs, and "within four to five months of receiving specifications a truck can roll off the production line".
According to Halliwell the trucks are designed "delivered to site and working within two to three weeks max".
It uses a production line assembly, after which the trucks are driven and then disassembled for transport.
However despite two vehicles already delivered to the Hunter Valley, BelAZ and APEG say they have no plans to actually sell them as of yet.
Halliwell told Ferret "the two trucks we have now are not for sale until we have total support and infrastructure for more vehicles, we expect the spare parts to arrive in early March".
However it will offer the vehicles for an 'evaluation', which the group was keen to state would not be a 'trial' of the vehicles.
"We are considering letting the vehicles be used for an 'evaluation' on site over two or three years, after they can buy the trucks, it is not a 'trial' as now they'll work on site.
"After we have the personnel and spare parts then we are looking to bring in two more 240 tonne trucks and three 360 tonne ones," he added.
The aftermarket servicing and repairs will be carried out by Sharps Heavy Equipment Repairs.
"While the majority of the service and parts support will be provided from our Rutherford workshops in the Hunter Valley, I expect there will be flow on work to the Mackay and Dalby workshops also, especially as demand increases," Sharp said.
Despite being relatively small, the company plans to expand alongside APEG's distribution of the new vehicles.
The two new trucks were officially launched at MINExpo, in Las Vegas, last year.
Weir Multiflo will do the no-pressure no-low loss refuelling systems on the trucks, while the tyres will be supplied by Bridgestone for the larger vehicles
The company added that it will unveil its new 500 tonne machine at a launch at its Belarusian factory in September, later this year.
The new machine will have two independent axles, utilise an articulated frame, and will be powered by two diesel engines with Siemens AC drives.