The region is underlain by an assemblage of sedimentary rocks consisting mainly of continental margin and shelf facies rocks. This assemblage was deposited on and to the west of the ancestral North American craton. These sedimentary rocks, for the most part typical miogeoclinal facies, range in age from Hadrynian to Upper Cretaceous. Structurally these rocks are part of the Foreland Thrust and Fold Belt of the North American Cordillera.
The coal measures of the region occur mainly in Cretaceous sediments deposited unconformably on older miogeoclinal strata. These sediments were subjected to fold and thrust tectonics which also affected the older rocks.
Economically significant coal measures (low to medium volatile metallurgical bituminous) occur in the Lower-Upper Cretaceous Gates Formation (Fort St. John Group), lying mainly in the northeast limb of the Belcourt anticlinorium. Nine coal zones, 1 to 9, occur in the Middle and Upper Gates Formation, interbedded with carbonaceous sandstones, siltstones, claystones, coal and some conglomerates deposited in back barrier and delta marshes (Middle Gates) and flood plain environments Upper Gates).
Zone 1 (3 to 10 metres thick) exists from Omega block in the south to Holtslander North. Although usually one mining section, up to four have been noted (Holtslander North).
Zone 2 is the basal seam in the north where it is also thickest (6 to 8 metres average) and persistent. To the south in the central part of the property it thins and in the far south again is significantly thick (2 to 3 metres).
Zone 3 is 4.5 metres thick in the north with many splits. It is variable laterally in thickness and number of splits. It thickens to the south (4.35 metres)(Ptarmigan/Red Deer) and then pinches out.
Zone 4 is 2.5 to 3.5 metres thick in the Red Deer blocks in the north and is a relatively low ash seam. The zone thins over the rest of the property.
Zone 5 is generally 5 to 6.5 metres thick and up to 10 metres in Holtslander South and Red Deer North. It thins to the far north to 1.17 metres.
Zones 6, 7 and 8 are locally persistent as coal or carbonaceous zones with fluvial channel deposits separating them.
The coals are low volatile (maximum reflectance 1.63) in the Ptarmigan and Omega blocks, and medium volatile (maximum reflectance 1.23) in the remaining areas. Average total reactives respectively are 67 and 63 per cent.
Volatile content increases to the northwest from 19.7 to 27.4 per cent and sulphur increases from 0.35 to 0.46 per cent in a southeast direction. Free Swelling Indexes are below 6 in the south and range from 6 to 8 in the medium volatile coals. Average phosphorous is 0.042 per cent with local highs noted as for sulphur.
The Lower Cretaceous Gething Formation (Bullhead Group) also contains significant coal (up to 5 seams greater than 0.5 metre). Seams appear to be laterally discontinuous. The Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous Minnes Group contains numerous thin seams whose lateral extent is often limited.
The Belcourt coal property covers the northeast limb of the Belcourt anticlinorium. The folds, of various types, generally have southwest dipping axial planes. Several major northwest trending, southwest dipping thrust faults occur on the property.
Two open pit areas were defined within the Gates Formation: 1) Red Deer South - a box-like to overturned asymmetric anticline/syncline plunging southeast 7 to 10 mining sections with 21.31 metres average aggregate mining section thickness. Coal dips 15 to 90 degrees; and 2) Holtslander North - a shallow, open synclinorium, plunging southeast; 8 to 12 mining sections with an average aggregate mining section thickness of 16.75 metres. Coal dips 15 to 40 degrees.
The combined Red Deer South and Holtslander North open pit mine areas contain a total of 113.7 million tonnes of metallurgical coal plant-feed and 9.8 million tonnes of thermal coal plant-feed at a plant-feed stripping ratio of 8.8 cubic metres of waste material per tonne of plant-feed coal (Coal Assessment Report 466, page 1-5).
In 1998, Western Coal Corporation conducted drilling on the Holtslander reserve area. A resource of 18,000,000 tonnes of metallurgical coal has been outlined, with additional potential in the Red Deer area (Information Circular 1999-1, page 14).
Based on exploration work conducted between 2005 and 2008, Western Canadian Coal Company produced a technical report including updated reserve and resource amounts. Reported were 86.4 million tonnes combined Proven and Probable Reserves of metallurgical coal and 171 million tonnes combined Measured and Indicated Resources of metallurgical coal (Technical Report, March 2, 2009, www.sedar.com).
As of early 2009, Belcourt Coal is owned by Belcourt-Saxon Limited Partnership (under NEMI Northern Energy and Mining Inc. in SEDAR).