The Roman Mountain coal deposit is located 1 kilometre southwest of the Trend mine (093I 030) about 24 kilometres southeast of Tumbler Ridge.
The coal measures at Roman Mountain occur in a tight upright syncline (Murray syncline) at the top of the mountain and extend for up to 7 kilometres along strike. The syncline has a 4 kilometre strike length, is cored with Lower Cretaceous Gates Formation conglomerate and coal seams, and features steep reverse faults with associated folds and tectonically thickened coal. The cumulative thickness of Gates Formation seams is about 18 metres. Seams in the Lower Cretaceous Gething Formation have a cumulative thickness of 7.5 metres and can be blended with Gates Formation coals. Looking down strike, the mountain has a prominent core of Gates Formation D-conglomerate sloping outward across the Gates coal sequence to recessive gullies of Lower Cretaceous Moosebar Formation (Fort St. John Group) marine shale and then outward across the Gething Formation to shoulders of resistant Lower Cretaceous Cadomin Formation (Bullhead Group) conglomerate at the base of the Gething. The Cadomin Formation then forms the core of the Waterfall anticline on the northeast which hosts the Trend mine. The coal sequence is similar to that at Trend with Gates (D, E, F, G, J seams) and Gething (Bird and GT seams) of 18.3 metres and 7.5 metres cumulate thickness, respectively. Complexities including thrust faults and drag folding have been identified on the southwest limb of the syncline. Coal seams have been identified over a 3 kilometre strike length.
The Gates Formation (Fort St. John Group) is the major coal-bearing unit of the area and consists of siltstone, shale, sandstone, conglomerate and several cycles of coal deposition. It is generally subdivided into four sub-units, termed the Upper Gates member, the Babcock member, the Middle Gates member and the Quintette member. The Quintette member, approximately 80 to 90 metres thick, consists primarily of massive, fine-grained siltstones and sandstones. The Middle Gates, approximately 90 to 100 metres thick, consists of a series of fining-upward sequences that culminate in coal development, and hosts all of the economic coal seams of the Gates Formation. The Babcock member is a channel deposit sequence of massive sandstones, conglomeratic sandstones and chert pebble/granule conglomerates, averaging 20 to 30 metres thick. The Upper Gates member is a 30 to 40 metres series of shales and sandy shales with several thin, discontinuous coal seams. A very thin bed of ferruginous chert pebbles marks the top of the unit. Overall thickness of the Gates Formation is 270 to 300 metres.
The Gething Formation (Bullhead Group) consists of alternating units of fine to coarse-grained sandstone, carbonaceous shale, coal, siltstone and conglomerate. Three to four significant coal seams occur in upper part of this formation, and form part of the Trend mine reserves. Historically, the Gething Formation coals have not been mined in this area. The upper contact is a thin bed of pebble conglomerate overlain by distinctive glauconitic, marine sandstones that form the base of the overlying Moosebar Formation (Fort St. John Group). Its thickness ranges from 120 to 200 metres.
In 1975, Denison Mines (B.C.) Limited undertook a feasibility study of open-pit mining at the Quintette property including the Roman Mountain area. Exploration work at the Roman Mountain pit during 1975 consisted of detailed geological mapping, three trenches, two diamond-drill holes and 11 rotary-drill holes. The drilling was located to confirm the location of coal seams and to define the extent of oxidation. In addition to the 2002 drilling, approximately 20 trenches were excavated to verify seam thickness. Coal seams have been identified over a 3 kilometre strike length.
During June-October 2005, Northern Energy and Mining Inc. (NEMI) conducted a program of open-hole percussion drilling and trenching on the Roman Mountain-Murray Syncline coal deposit. Exploration access was re-established via existing dormant roads and trails which were extended to new areas. A total of 2640 metres of drilling was completed, including 2510 metres in 24 new holes, and 150 metres deepening existing holes. Sites of all of the pre-existing 1975 and 1976 drillholes were located, and 14 of these totalling 1247 metres were re-entered, cleaned out and re-logged. The program ended when snow conditions made access impractical. Results of the 2005 work closely confirm the location, structure and size of the deposit as reported by Quintette Coal Limited in 1976 (Coal Assessment Report 896).
During July-November 2006, NEMI conducted a program of open-hole percussion drilling, diamond drill coring, bulk sampling and trenching on the Roman Mountain-Murray Syncline coal deposit. Late in 2006 all of NEMI’s coal properties became the property of Peace River Coal (PRC). A new access route from the Trend mine was constructed. A total of 6561 metres of drilling was completed, including 4993 metres in 28 new rotary-percussion holes, 391 metres in two diamond-drill holes, 846 metres in 19 bulk sample holes and 331 metres deepening seven existing holes from 1975 to 1976 and 2005. Two of the 1975 drillholes (totalling 420 metres) were re-entered, cleaned out and re-logged. Thirty-one trenches were dug using an excavator, exposing the significant coal seams on the property. The program ended when weather conditions made access and equipment operation impractical. Results of the 2006 work confirmed the structural model for the deposit including the location, number and thickness of seams and the quantity of coal as reported by Quintette Coal Limited in 1976 and NEMI in 2005. The data will ultimately support calculations that will lead to an increase in the reserve base for the property. The Roman Mountain block currently contains 26.2 million tonnes of coal classified as ‘inferred’.
In 2007, Peace River Coal continued evaluation of its Roman Mountain project completing almost 21,000 metres of drilling. About 27 million in-place tonnes of coal had been identified as of June 2007. The Environmental Assessment process for the project began in November 2007, and the intent was that it be completed in 2008 with production in 2009 subject to approvals being in place. A pre-feasibility study on the Roman Mountain project began in 2009, to be followed closely by Environmental Assessment and Mine Permit applications. Like the Trend mine, Roman Mountain would exploit both the Gates and Gething formations. The main pit would release coal from the Gates Formation within an upright syncline; and Gething Formation coal would be mined from two small pits, one on each side of the main pit. To the north of Roman Mountain, PRC proposes to develop the Horizon block as a combined open pit/underground operation. In 2009, Peace River Coal plans to supplement production from its Trend mine with production from Roman Mountain. The planned contour mine at Roman Mountain, with an expected 15-year life and annual production of 2.5 million tonnes, will encompass both limbs of the syncline.
In 2010, the Roman Mountain deposit entered the provincial Environmental Review Process and Peace River Coal is planned to complete a feasibility study on the deposit.
In 2011, Peace River Coal was stalled in advancing the Roman Mountain project adjacent to its Trend mine because of environmental concerns relating to the mountain caribou population, but continued to work toward expanding the mine along strike. A trenching and drilling (300 metres of diamond drilling and 4000 metres of reverse circulation drilling) program was permitted in September to delineate coal seam repetition, upgrade Gething Formation seams on either fold limb, and provide better coal quality data using PQ air-coring and triple-tube system to maximize core recovery. Caribou mitigation and monitoring plans were revised over the year to coincide with the interim guidelines. The current (as of 2013) in situ mineable resource is 26.7 million tonnes (Measured and Indicated).
Other Anglo/PRC expansion projects include Roman Northwest and Horizon Ridge. Both projects have approved drilling and trenching programs. Roman Northwest is located 4 kilometres northwest of Roman Mountain on Mount Kostuik. A new geological interpretation suggests the deposit sits within a tight chevron fold sequence. The Horizon Ridge project (formerly the Five Cabin Coal Project), 8 kilometres west of the Trend mine, sits in a broad asymmetric syncline containing both Gates and Gething coal seams with potential for a 1.6 million tonnes per year underground operation over 20 years. The project is in the Pre-Application stage of the EA process.
In August 2012, a Mines Act Permit was signed by the Minister of Energy and Mines and Anglo-PRC announced the start of construction at the Roman Expansion Trend (Roman Mountain) project on Roman Mountain. The $50 million first phase of the $200 million multi-year expansion project includes the construction of a water management system (ditching and catchment structures and a sedimentation pond) and a selenium treatment plant. Once in operation, the expansion will comprise 5 kilometres of linear open cuts in several phases to capture the Middle Gates coal seams on Roman Mountain, and satellite pits for the Upper Gething coal seams. Mining will start lower in the Middle Gates sequence (G - J seams), where the stripping ratio is less. By 2029, open cut Phases 1 to 3 at Trend are to be filled with waste rock from the Roman operation. Production is expected to be 1 million tonnes per year for Roman, bringing the combined Trend-Roman production to 2.5 million tonnes. The Roman and Trend operations will be integrated to make the best use of existing mine infrastructure, although additional plant capacity and mining equipment will be required to increase and sustain production. The company foresees the Roman expansion coming into production by 2015, coinciding with the coal market’s recovery from oversupply. The mine plan includes financial and habitat offsetting in accordance with the BC Government’s Peace Northern Caribou Plan (PNCP) of $2.6 million and 1852 hectares of tenure.
In 2013, the second component of the Mines Act Permit Amendment was granted for the Roman Mountain expansion, fully permitting the combined Trend-Roman operation (Anglo American plc). Construction projects continuing into 2014 included ditching for runoff management, two sedimentation ponds, and a selenium treatment test plant that was commissioned in the first half of the year. A causeway was constructed to provide better access to Roman Mountain. The combined Trend-Roman operation will extend the life of the existing Trend mine by 16 years.
In September 2013, Anglo-PRC announced that it would be suspending operations at the combined Trend-Roman mine by the end of 2014 due to depressed coal prices. In 2017, the opening of Anglo American plc’s Roman Mountain expansion area for the Trend mine remained on hold.
As of 2013, Roman Mountain coal reserves (proven and probable) were 26.6 million tonnes saleable (Exploration and Mining in British Columbia 2014, page 12). As of December 31, 2016, Proven and Probable reserves at the Trend (093I 030) and Roman mines were 34.1 million tonnes of hard coking coal (Information Circular 2018-2, page 8). Proven reserves at Roman Mountain are 25.8 million tonnes, and Proven reserves at Trend are 8.3 million tonnes (Information Circular 2018-1, page 40).