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File Created: 24-Jul-85 by BC Geological Survey (BCGS)
Last Edit:  03-Dec-18 by Janet M. Riddell(JMR)

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NMI 093O9 Col1
Name WILLOW CREEK, PINE VALLEY, PINE RIVER, NORTH, CENTRAL Mining Division Liard
BCGS Map 093O069
Status Producer NTS Map 093O09E
Latitude 55º 37' 10" N UTM 10 (NAD 83)
Longitude 122º 13' 19" W Northing 6164000
Easting 549000
Commodities Coal Deposit Types A04 : Bituminous coal
Tectonic Belt Foreland Terrane Overlap Assemblage
Capsule Geology

The Willow Creek coal mine is located 38 kilometres west of Chetwynd in the Pine Valley area.

Nine economic coal seams (youngest to oldest numbered: 1-4, A, 5-9) of low to medium volatile bituminous coal occur in the Lower Cretaceous Gething Formation (Bullhead Group) within the northeast limb of the 4 kilometre long Willow Creek anticlinorium, with thrust faulted subsidiary synclinal folds and northeast dipping monoclines. Thrust faulting (Willow Thrust) is steeply northeast dipping. The coal is interbedded with sandstone, siltstone, and claystone. Average coal seam thickness varies from 2.0 metres (seams 2 and 5) to 3.6 metres (seam 4) and 4.2 metres (seam 7). Coal zones 1, 4 and 7 are most continuous; zones 6 and 5 show a shorter strike length while zones 2, 3 and 8 are least continuous.

The coal seams are commonly split, with individual coal units averaging 1.2 metres thickness, and a cumulative thickness of about 29 metres. Three seams (5, 7, and 8) are ULV-PCI coal.

Average ash content varies from 7.28 per cent (seam 6) to 14.98 per cent (seam A); volatile matter from 15.63 per cent (seam 7) to 23.72 per cent (seam 1); fixed carbon from 62.47 per cent (seam 2) to 76.58 per cent (seam 7) and sulphur from 0.43 per cent (seam 3) to 0.70 per cent (seam 5) on a dry basis.

The coal property covers the northern part of the northwest Willow Creek anticlinorium in which the Gething Formation is exposed. The anticlinorium consists of four parallel northwest-trending anticlines with intervening syncline axes exposed in the west. The syncline axes in the north are marked by northwest-trending faults. Dips vary from 6 to 50 degrees, and are commonly 15 to 30 degrees.

In 1996, Globaltex Industries Inc., Matsushima Canada and BCR Ventures conducted an advanced stage drilling program. A total of 7500 metres of drilling in 240 holes were completed. Preliminary resources are estimated at 27 million tonnes of metallurgical coal. Various environmental studies are ongoing and the companies hope to receive approval-in-principal for a 500,000 tonne-per-year mine in late 1997. A full feasibility study is planned to be completed by late 1996-early 1997. To date (ca. 1997), 523 exploration drillholes totalling 34,500 metres have been completed. In addition, 50 percussion-drill holes have been drilled on claims to the southeast in the Pine Pass area.

Pine Valley Coal Limited submitted a Stage 2 report which outlines plans for a 900,000 tonnes-per-year operation for 15 years. Production is planned in 1999. Bulk sample programs included 200 kilograms for PCI coal testing and 600 kilograms for testing of carbonization characteristics and applicability as a semi-soft coking coal.

Globaltex Industries Inc. shipped 36,000 tonnes in 2001 and 84,376 tonnes in 2002. The property is owned two-thirds by Globaltex and one-third by Mitsui Matshushima Canada Ltd.

In 2003, Globaltex changed its name to Pine Valley Mining Corporation and commenced production at Willow Creek in June 2004. Combined measured and indicated recoverable reserves are 15.2 million tonnes of high-quality, low sulphur, low ash coal consisting of approximately 65 per cent pulverized coal injection (PCI) coal and 35 per cent coking coal. The stripping ratio is 3.6:1 and the permit is for 900,000 tonnes per year.

In 2006, Pine Valley updated the reserves for Willow Creek reporting combined Measured and Indicated reserves of 19.083 million tonnes with an approximated 50/50 ratio of cooking coal to PCI coal (Pine Valley Mining Corporation Management Discussion and Analysis June 22, 2006; www.sedar.com). In October 2006, rising mining costs and weakening coal prices forced Pine Valley Mining to suspend operations indefinitely. As PCI and coking coal prices fell, the mine’s production costs rose and plant yield dropped from 75 per cent to 50 to 60 per cent. Ultimately, the company suspended mining operations in October due to economic difficulties and the parent company, together with its subsidiaries, was granted creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. Coking coal was mined from the 4 Pit and PCI coal was mined primarily from the 7C Pit. Prior to closure, mine site improvements included upgrading of haul and mine access roads and expanded sediment control structures. It is anticipated that Pine Valley will move forward by restructuring the company or will sell the Willow Creek mine.

In June 2007, Western Canadian Coal Corp. (WCC) purchased the property, with the intent of placing the mine under care and maintenance for 2007 and bringing it back into production in 2008. During 2007, 17 rotary and 3 core boreholes totalling 2001 metres were completed.

In September 2008, WCC began mining operations with a view to beginning coal sales in mid-2009. In late November, however, mining operations were suspended temporarily due to market uncertainties and the mine was placed under care and maintenance; no production was recorded.

In 2009, WCC continued an on-lease drilling program to better define the coal resource in the North Zone and conducted condemnation drilling for a potential waste site west of the north property adjacent to North Zone coal resources.

In 2010, WCC reported they were re-opening the Willow Creek mine. The company also reported updated reserves of 29.6 million tonnes combined Proven and Probable run-of-mine reserves (Northern Miner Press Release June 4, 2010). In 2011, the mine continued production after reopening in June of 2010.

In 2012, mining continued at Willow North in the 7N1 and 7N2 pit areas, and in the new 4N1 development area. Production was limited in the first quarter by a scheduled wash plant outage to upgrade HCC processing efficiency. Production totalled 0.87 million tonne of clean coal tonnage equivalent with one-third hard-coking coal (HCC) and two-thirds ultra-low volatile pulverized coal injection (ULV-PCI) coal. PCI coal is a high-rank thermal coal used to sustain blast furnace temperatures in steelmaking. The HCC is internationally sought for its coking strength under blast furnace conditions.

In 2013, the Willow Creek mine of Western Coal Corp. is wholly owned by Walter Energy Inc. In April, operations were curtailed at the mine due to the combination of depressed coal prices, and a company-wide effort by Walter Energy to evaluate its operations with respect to cost reduction initiatives. Operations for the remainder of 2013, with a 70 per cent reduced workforce, were limited to the processing plant in support of the Brule mine (093P 007), and minor in-pit work. Due to the suspension of mining in April 2013, production was about 0.45 million tonne clean coal.

Willow Creek coal has a higher CSR (Coke Strength after Reaction) and is marketed at a premium separately from Wolverine project coal (093P 025). Both Willow Creek and Brule (Upper 60 seam) run-of-mine (ROM) coal products are processed at the Willow Creek site.

As of March 2013, recoverable coal reserves were stated at 19.0 million tonnes (17.7 million tonnes proven, 1.3 million tonnes probable) and the resource inclusive of reserves was 50.1 million tonnes in situ mineable coal (Measured and Indicated) (Exploration and Mining in British Columbia 2013, page 75).

The Willow Creek mine was placed on care and maintenance by Walter Energy in 2014 and is forecast to resume production under Conuma Coal Resources Limited’s management in late April 2018. In the interim, the wash plant and load-out facility at Willow Creek continues to serve operations at Brule and Perry Creek. As of December 31, 2016, Proven and Probable reserves stood at 16.6 million tonnes (Information Circular 2018-1, page 40; 2018-2, page 8).

The mine resumed production in July 2018.

Bibliography
EMPR BULL 24; *36; 51; 52
EMPR COAL ASS RPT 689, 690, 824, 846, 848, 861, *862, 984, 986, 988, 1001
EMPR EXPL 1996-A25,C13; 1997-31; 1998-13; 2006-47,49,50,55; *2007-31-36; *2008-35,38-41; *2009-23,26,29; 2010-55; 2011-37,39,41,42,44; *2012-53,55-58,60,65; 2013-70,72,74,75,88; 2014-10
EMPR FIELDWORK 1991, pp. 405-417, 433-440
EMPR INF CIRC 1993-13; 1997-1, p. 24; 1998-1, p. 23; 1999-1, pp. 12,13; 2011-1, pp. 2,4,6,25; 2011-4; 2012-1, pp. 3-6; *2012-2, pp. 3-5,8; 2013-1, pp. 4,5; 2013-2, pp. 3,6-8; 2014-1, pp. 7,19; *2014-5, pp. 2,5-7; 2015-3, pp. 6,9; 2016-1, pp. 37,38; 2016-2, p. 6; *2017-1, pp. 2,32,42,43; 2017-2, pp. 1,6; 2018-1, pp. 2,36,38,40,41; 2018-2, p. 8
EMPR MAP 33; 65
EMPR OF 1992-1; 1994-1
EMPR PF (Willow Creek Coal Project; Western Canadian Coal Corp. (March 2000): Developing British Columbia's Next Generation of Coal Mines)
GSC BULL 219; 328
GSC MAP 11-1961
GSC MEM 259
GSC OF 286; 925; 1150
GCNL #164(Aug.26), 1997; #51(Mar.13), 1998; #23(Feb.3), 1999
CMJ July 9, 2003; Apr.14,27, May 26, 2004
N MINER *Apr.12, 1999; May 31, June 11, Aug.3,9, 2004
PR REL Globaltex Industries Inc., Dec.21, 2001, Mar.10, 2003; Pine Valley Mining Corp., Jun.27, 2003, Apr.13,27, Sept.10,23,24, Nov.29, 2004; Western Coal Corp., Jun.4, 2010
WWW http://www.sedar.com (Pine Valley Mining Corporation MD&A Jun.23, 2005; Jun.22, 2006); http://www.westerncoal.com; http://walterenergy.com/

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