The Carbon Creek coal property is located west of Carbon Creek and south of Peace Reach of Williston Lake, about 44 kilometres west of Hudson's Hope.
At Carbon Creek, twelve principal thermal grade coal seams, greater than 1 metre thick, occur in the Lower Cretaceous Gething Formation (Bullhead Group). The Gething Formation, which reaches a thickness of 1067 metres (maximum known thickness in northeast British Columbia), consists of non-marine interbedded sandstone, siltstone, mudstone, coal and minor chert pebble conglomerate. The upper Gething Formation (610 metres) was deposited in a lower delta plain environment and contains thinner, laterally discontinuous and occasionally high sulphur coal seams (2.49 per cent sulphur). The lower 457 metres represents upper delta plain deposition with coarser sediments and laterally continuous, relatively thick and lower sulphur coal seams (less than 1 per cent; average of 0.8 per cent sulphur).
The free swelling index (FSI) is less than 3 in all seams except seam 40 (FSI is 4), and seams 53 and 31 (FSI is 5). Seams 14 and 15 are low in volatile matter (average approximately 22 per cent), while all other seams range from 27 to 31 per cent volatile material.
The contact between the Gething and underlying Cadomin Formation (Bullhead Group) is transitional, both vertically and laterally. The marine Lower to Upper Cretaceous Moosebar Formation (Fort St. John Group) overlies the Gething Formation.
The structure consists of a broad, northwest trending syncline (axis follows the course of Carbon Creek) with Gething Formation rocks occurring in the core. The Gething Formation sediments are flat lying (0 to 15 degrees), with steeper dips associated with four high-angle reverse faults dipping to the east. The faults have broken the coal seams into mineable blocks with steeply dipping unmineable coal near the faults. The dips increase up to approximately 30 degrees locally in the limbs of the syncline to the west and east. Some parasitic folding was noted in the eastern limb.
The property consists of a gentle doubly-plunging syncline between two anticlinal belts. Minor folds are associated with steep thrust faults. Over 30 Gething Formation coal seams have historically been identified on the property, with 12 main economic seams averaging between 1.14 and 2.17 metres thickness. The deposit shows good continuity and simpler geometry than some deposits in the coalfield. The coal seams on the property have been divided into an upper seam package hosting semi-soft coking coal (SSCC)/pulverized coal injection (PCI) and oxidized thermal coal, and a lower seam package hosting hard-coking coal (HCC).
Measured, indicated and inferred reserves calculated on 11 principal coal seams at Carbon Creek are 221,831,300 tonnes (Coal Assessment Report 496, Table 2). Resources as reported in a 1982 Utah Mines Limited Stage 2 Environmental Impact Assessment, Page 2-47:
Category Amount (tonnes)
Coal occurrences in the Carbon Creek area were first documented in the early 1900s by prospectors such as Rochfort, Barr and McAllister. In 1947, the British Columbia Department of Mines sent W.H. Mathews into the Carbon Creek Valley to investigate the coal resources. Mathews outlined the structure and distribution of coal-bearing rocks and exposures of coal of possible commercial interest. Subsequent regional investigations of the area were made in 1961 and 1964.
In 1971, Utah Mines Ltd. became operator of the Carbon Creek property under an agreement with Trend Exploration Ltd. and the Burns Foundation. The property has since undergone extensive exploration between 1971 and 1973 and between 1975 and 1976. During this period the major coal seams were located, correlated and delineated and the quality information largely defined. Diamond drilling amounted to 91 holes totalling 17,583.3 metres and rotary drilling 162 holes totalling 6155.6 metres. In addition, six adits have been driven in selected seams and 8285 tonnes of coal removed for testing and analysis. In 1981, Utah Mines Ltd. completed 1443 metres of diamond drilling in six holes and 1747 metres of rotary drilling in 39 holes.
In 2011, Coalhunter Mining Corp. has been developing its Carbon Creek metallurgical coal property and initiated an environmental baseline study and began geotechnical investigation for a future wash plant site. In June 2011, Cardero Resources Corp. acquired Coalhunter Mining Corp. Coalhunter was renamed Cardero Coal Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary, and remains operator of the project. In January, Cardero Resources Corp. (75 per cent) and the Carbon Creek Partnership (25 per cent ) released a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) study, followed by a Prefeasibility Study (PFS) in September. The PFS significantly upgrades reserves and resource to 121 million tonnes (Proven and Probable) and 468 million tonnes (Measured and Indicated), and proposes a combined surface and underground (room-and-pillar) operation with average annual production of 4.1 million tonnes washed coal over an initial 20 years. The operation will be divided into a Central Surface Mine and North Mine areas. Products will be 60 per cent HCC, 34 per cent PCI and SSCC, and 6 per cent oxidized thermal coal. Coal product would be barged 175 kilometres over Williston Lake from a processing plant near Carbon Inlet to Mackenzie for rail load-out. First production is planned for fourth quarter 2014.
The 2012 exploration program included: resource and expansion drilling; large-diameter drilling for coal quality; and geotechnical, hydrogeological, and gas desorption test work. It was the last major program prior to completion of a Feasibility Study in 2013, followed by a Mines Act Permit Application. The project is in the Pre-Application phase of the Environmental Assessment process. Drilling to the end of 2012 brought the total since 2011 to 42,000 metres in 146 drillholes averaging 300 metres depth. Compilation and analysis of the coal quality database has been completed. A coal product study by consultant Wood Mackenzie found both the HCC and SSCC are close to benchmark specification in the existing global coal market, and that the HCC would be marketed as medium volatile bituminous rank coal with low ash content (4 to 6 per cent).
In 2013, Cardero Resources Corp. and subsidiary Cardero Coal Ltd. started with work on financial arrangements for their Carbon Creek project which included acquisition of adjacent coal licenses and raising capital. In April, a geotechnical drilling and trenching program was planned near Carbon Inlet for site suitability assessments of proposed mine facilities (coal processing plant, covered stockpiles, conveyors, and ancillary buildings); and several groundwater monitoring wells were to be added. In April, the project was approved for a Substitution review by the Provincial Environment Assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. The company has a prefeasibility study for a combined surface and underground (room-and-pillar) operation with an average annual production of 4.1 million tonnes of clean coal over an initial 20 years. In May, the company reported staff reductions and work suspension at Carbon Creek in order to preserve cash; and that it was seeking to option out or joint venture its non-core assets and monetize its iron assets. Work on the Feasibility Study was halted while the company worked to resolve financing issues. In November, the company received a delisting notification from the New York Stock Exchange. The company’s common shares remain listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
In 2014, Cardero Resource Group conducted mapping and prospecting at the Carbon Creek project. In 2015, Cardero Resource Corp. released a maiden National Instrument (NI) 43-101 resource estimate for the current Carbon Creek metallurgical coal project held by the Carbon Creek joint venture of 290 million tonnes of Measured and Indicated, and 161 million tonnes of Inferred ASTM rank mvB coal, as at November 1, 2014 (Press Release - Cardero Resource Corp., January 6, 2015).