The Quintette mine (Mesa pit) is located at the heads of South Mast and Mesa creeks, approximately 17 kilometres southwest of the community of Tumbler Ridge.
The Lower Cretaceous middle Gates Formation (Fort St. John Group) consisting of sandstone, shale, siltstone, conglomerate and coal has been folded into a series of northwest trending open folds with associated low angle thrust faults. Major regional thrusts, the Mesa and Sheriff faults, locally displace the Gates Formation over the Hulcross Formation (Fort St. John Group).
The four main coal seams in the McConkey pit are D, E, G and J seams. Seam D, the uppermost, contains a few sporadically developed thin shale partings and basal coal splits and thins to the southeast and is not considered economic. Seams E and F, 8.4 metres thick, contains many sporadic shale partings and has a consistently developed split, E4, 1.8 to 4.4 metres below the main seam. The G seam, 0.9 metre thick, contains a rock parting and coal split in the upper portion in the southeast. Seam J, 8.9 metres thick, is well developed and contains a few distinct shale partings in the southeast and represents the main target in the McConkey pit. These seams are restricted to the middle Gates Formation.
The coal-bearing sequence is capped to the northwest and in the south-central areas by up to 40 metres of Lower Cretaceous "Babcock Member" conglomerate and conglomeratic sandstones.
In 1972, the John T. Boyd Company conducted a coal reserve study and mining plan for the Babcock Mountain area of the Quintette project. The property extended from Kinuseo Creek in the south to Perry Creek in the north. An outcrop of the D seam was reported to occur, in the property, on the northwestern flank of Babcock Mountain. This was at an elevation ranging from 1590 to 1680 metres, with the other seams outcropping at corresponding lower elevations. The joint exploration program performed on the Babcock Mountain property (093I 011) included seven rotary-drill holes, 18 diamond-drill holes and 13 adits. Ten drillholes were performed on the Wolverine North property (093P 020) and five drillholes on the Five Cabin property. Structural mapping was conducted on the Wolverine South and Quintette properties.
The mine plan proposed by the John T. Boyd Company involved two mines that would be operated concurrently in the D and F seams initially, with each mine producing 1.54 million tonnes of raw coal annually. The arrangement of the outside facilities would permit the concurrent development of the J seam, or the substitution of the J seam or other seams for the D or F seams, if desired, with a minimum amount of change. Three production cases were proposed at this time: Case 1 included the D and F seams with 1.96 million tonnes of clean recoverable coal at 62.5 per cent recovery, Case 2 included the F and J seams with 2.19 million tonnes of clean recoverable coal at 70 per cent recovery, and Case 3 included D and J seams with 2.32 million tonnes of clean recoverable coal at 74 per cent recovery (Property File Cyprus Anvil - John T. Boyd Co., 1972).
The approximate composite metallurgical coal quality for the three cases examined was:
Case 1 Case 2 Case 3
D & F F & J D & J
Seams Seams Seams
- Ash (%) 6.50 7.00 8.00
- Volatile Water (%) 23. 11 21.58 22.20
- Fixed Carbon (%) 64.39 65.42 63.80
- Moisture (%) 6.00 6.00 6.00
- Recovery (%) 62.50 70.00 74.00
- Sulfur (%) 0.57 0.2 0.53
- FSI 6-1/2 7-1/4 6-1/4
(Property File Cyprus Anvil - John T. Boyd Co., 1972)
Petrographic analyses of coal samples, performed by Mitsui Mining in 1973, showed that seam F has the highest proportion of total reactives (68.4 to 71.4 per cent, average 70.6 per cent), followed by seams E and J at 65 per cent each and D seam at 64 per cent. This work supports a conclusion that the Babcock coals could be used as a coking coal, with the best quality coming from the E, F and J seams (Property File Cyprus Anvil - Quintette Joint Venture, 1973).
In April 1974, Mitsui submitted an interim report which summarized an outline of the plan and the economic feasibility to develop and perform hydraulic mining in the Babcock mountain area (093I 011). The No. 1 mine was planned to be constructed in the Babcock Mountain area, with the D, F and J coal seams being workable by hydraulic method. An annual production of roughly 3.05 million tonnes of raw coal or 2.24 Mt of clean coal was expected from the No. 1 mine. The No. 2 mine was planned to be constructed in the upper level of Caribou North area, with the F, I and J coal seams being workable. Annual production was of roughly 1.24 million tonnes raw coal or 0.92 million tonne clean coal was expected. The plant and most of the surface facilities were to be constructed and installed along Babcock Creek with a capacity for 915 tonnes of raw coal per hour (Property File Cyprus Anvil - Mitsui Mining Co. Ltd., 1974).
In 1975, Denison Mines (B.C.) Limited under took a feasibility study of open-pit mining at the Quintette property. The project was to consist of up to four open pits, suitable for delivery of sufficient raw coal to allow for the production of 1.5 million tonnes of clean coal annually. This included design work of pits in the Windy area (093I 011), and the Roman Mountain area (093I 030). The ultimate pit design proposed was based on stripping ratios of 6.2 cubic metres per tonne raw coal and 8.12 cubic metres per tonne raw coal in the Windy area and 4.0 cubic metres per tonne raw coal for the Roman Pit. The ultimate slope angle selected was 50 degrees for both mines, with a minimum operating width required of 50 metres. A minimum mining thickness of 1 metre in the Windy area and 1.5 metres in the Roman Mountain area were used to calculate coal reserves. Total possible reserves of coal in place were estimated at 2.8 billion tonnes from underground and open pit mining methods. Indicated reserves within each mining area given in the table below.
Proposed Mine Site Millions of Tonnes
Underground Mining Reserves
- Babcock No. 1 122.0
- Babcock No. 2, 3 & 4 41.4
- Perry Creek (Wolverine) 94.5
- Five Cabin (Wolverine) 104.3
Open-Pit Mining Reserves
- Windy Pit (Babcock) 7.8
- Roman Mountain Pit (Babcock) 5.6
- Sheriff Pit (Wolverine) 3.1
- Frame Pit (Wolverine) 9.7
(Property File Cyprus Anvil - Quintette Coal Limited, 1975)
Also in 1975, a preliminary feasibility study for a fully integrated mine to produce 4.5 million tonnes per year of metallurgical grade coal was undertaken. This included 3.0 million tonnes of clean coal per year from the Babcock Plant and 1.5 million tonnes per year of clean coal from the Wolverine Plant (Property File Cyprus Anvil - Kilborn Ltd., 1975). By 1976, regional reserves of total theoretical coal in place for the Gething Formation and Gates Member had been completed for the area covered by the Quintette Coal Licenses.
Gething Gates Theoretical Coal in Place Area
Formation Member Millions of Tonnes
Babcock 117 1464 1581
Five Cabin 100 39 139
Murray 166 61 227
Wolverine 239 325 564
Total 622 1889 2511
(Property File Cyprus Anvil - Quintette Coal Limited, 1976)
Reserves of clean metallurgical coal are 22.8 million tonnes; undeveloped (geological) reserves of product coal are 140 million tonnes (The Coal Association of Canada 1993 Directory, page 19).
The Quintette mine, operated by Quintette Coal Limited, had a difficult year and expects to ship 3.8 million tonnes, down from the planned 4.3 million tonnes. Exploration expenditures, estimated at 1 million dollars, were focused on developing reserves for beyond 1998 on Babcock Mountain (093I 011) (35 drillholes) and in the Mesa Extension area (35 drillholes) (Information Circular 1996-1, page 9).
Clean coal reserves, of 12 million tonnes, are contained mainly in the Shikano Pit (093I 010). Exploration in 1995 identified two areas, Mesa Extension and mining along contour at Babcock (093I 011), that would add approximately 19 million tonnes of clean coal to the reserve total (Schroeter, T. and Lane, R., personal communication, 1996).
Reserves within existing pits were estimated at 27.7 million tonnes. Teck advanced the development of the Babcock Pit. This will provide a fourth working area and increase coal production in 1997 by about 500,000 tonnes. Reserves at Babcock are 12 million tonnes; Mesa Extension contains 7 million tonnes (T. Schroeter, personal communication, 1997).
Production in 1998 is estimated at 3 million tonnes of clean metallurgical coal. Approximately one-third of that total was produced from the Little and Big Windy developments at Mount Babcock (093I 011). Reserves in the Shikano (093I 010), Wolverine (093P 020) and Deputy pits were exhausted during the year. The remaining mineable reserves are contained in the Babcock, Mesa and Mesa Extension areas. Clean coal reserves, at the end of 1998, are an estimated 18 million tonnes. The Babcock development is expected to produce 2 million tonnes of clean coal per annum for the next five years. The balance of 1 million tonnes per year will come from Mesa and Mesa Extension. A planned exploration program consisting of percussion and large-diameter core drilling, together with bulk sampling, on the Window area at Babcock, was postponed indefinitely.
In February 2000, Teck announced plans to close the mine in August 2000, ahead of a planned closure of March 2003. The mine closed on August 17, 2000 (Information Circular 2001-1, page 6).
In 2010 and 2011, Teck Coal Limited was actively examining the possibility of reopening the former Quintette mine (Windy and Window pits). The Quintette mine has been a coal producer for almost 18 years from 1982 up to August 2000 with development in 1998 of open cuts on Mount Babcock (Big and Little Windy) producing about 2 million tonnes per year washed coal. A feasibility study was expected to be completed during 2011 and, if positive, Quintette might see renewed production as early as 2013. The company conducted environmental baseline studies in support of a possible reopening. Almost 2500 metres of conventional drilling and 1000 metres of reverse circulation drilling were completed, and washability tests conducted on core samples.
Mount Babcock is located 4 kilometres northeast of the Trend mine and Waterfall anticline. It is a box fold anticline structure with a coal sequence similar to that of the Trend mine (093I 030) (D, E, F, G, J, and K seams) and an average cumulative coal thickness of 16.2 metres. The Babcock Member (upper Gates) and Hulcross Formation shales form the cap rock of the box fold above the middle Gates Formation coal sequence. The Windy pit area becomes more of a gently folded asymmetric anticline from west to east. The Window pit area is a gentle asymmetric box-fold with thrust faults along the northeast fold hinge.
In 2012, restart of Teck’s Quintette mine project remained on hold awaiting a Mines Act Permit Amendment (MAPA) and a First Nations third-party review. The new mine plan, based on a 2010 Feasibility Study and new geological interpretation, is focused on reopening the Windy and Window pits on the northwest and northeast sides of Babcock Mountain (093I 011). The MAPA was submitted for pre-screening in April, the Feasibility Study was submitted for review in September, and a final caribou mitigation plan was submitted to the Province in October. Production is anticipated for 2013, depending on a positive Feasibility decision. In the summer, the development program at Quintette included geotechnical drilling, installation of groundwater wells, trail construction, and drilling on Mount Babcock to define coal seam characteristics, and to conduct subsurface foundation investigations. The program was run from August 1 to October 31, during the caribou low-risk timing window. Dismantling and stockpiling of the old 13 kilometre conveyor from the Mesa pit is completed. The estimated resource is 180.5 million tonnes (Measured and Indicated), and 136.5 Mt (Inferred) of raw coal. Babcock Mountain is a box-fold in the Waterfall anticline trend, having a coal sequence similar to that of the Trend mine (D to K seams) (093I 030).
In late April 2013, Teck Resources Ltd. reported a drop in coal prices of 28 per cent year-on-year to $162 per tonne, and announced a program to contain production costs at existing operations. The Quintette-Babcock mine (093I 011) re-start project continued to progress through the MAPA application process. In anticipation of permitting approval in Q2 and the start of coal production in 2014, engineering work was underway and long-lead equipment was being procured.
In June 2013, the MAPA was approved for the open-cut mine operation focused on reopening the Windy (Big and Little) and Window pits on the north-northwest to north and northeast faces of Mount Babcock. The mining plan calls for production from the Window pit for the first two years, then to the top of the Big Windy highwall for two years with a thin strip through the 80 metres thick Hulcross Formation shale above the Gates Formation sequence, followed by 3 to 8 years of mining of the Windy pits, and then 4 more years at the Window pit. The estimated resource is 180.5 million tonnes (Measured and Indicated), and 136.5 million tonnes (Inferred) of raw coal. By maximizing the use of existing infrastructure and processing plant, the mine is expected to produce an average 3.0 to 3.5 million tonnes per year washed coal over a 12 year mine life.
In late July 2013, Teck reported a 23 per cent drop in coal price to $159 per tonne and 50.5 per cent drop in Q2 earnings year-on-year. The company responded by intensifying capital conservation and cost reduction initiatives, including a slowing of the Quintette restart. A final production decision was delayed in order to defer $300 million of capital expenditures in 2013 and $350 million in early 2014. Detailed engineering work will continue so that an early 2014 positive decision would enable commercial production by mid-2015 in an improved market.
In October 2013, a reduced production rate was being considered for the mine restart as a means of lowering start-up costs. Late permitting approval in 2012, related to the establishment of a mitigation plan for core caribou habitat developed through the PNCP pilot application, caused a 61-hole rotary circulation drilling program to be deferred to 2013. The objectives of the program were to upgrade the reserve classification of the Window pit through infill drilling, and continue drilling in the Windy pit area. Only 20 per cent of the reserve was classified as Proven. A four-hole core drilling program continued exploring the northeast fault area to better define fault location (four known splays and disturbance zones); to gather coal quality and ARD data, and rock strength data for pit design. Other aspects of the 2013 program included a 30-hole shallow (less than 50 metres) geotechnical drilling program for sedimentation pond foundations, groundwater monitoring wells, and borrow area determination; and 70 small test pits. Engineering work included widening the haul road, surveying a cutline for the proposed conveyor from the Window pit, and designing collection ditches to divert contact water from the Babcock Creek watershed on the east side of Mount Babcock (downstream from the Trend-Roman operation) to the less affected Murray River watershed on the west. Specific Gravity circuit tests and pilot scale wash plant tests were conducted on a 16-tonne bulk sample collected in 2012 by a Large Diameter Reverse Flood (LDRF) drilling technique. The delayed start-up provided an opportunity to mine a 50 kilotonne clean coal pilot test sample in October that was partitioned and sent to potential customers globally for blending tests.
In April 2014, Teck announced that the project was being deferred until market conditions improve, and by July the site had transitioned to care and maintenance. Reserves (Proven and Probable) are 41.1 million tonnes clean coal and resources (Measured and Indicated) 124 million tonnes raw coal (excluding reserves) at the Window and Windy (Big and Little) pits on Mount Babcock (Exploration and Mining in British Columbia 2014, page 12). In 2017, the planned reopening of the Quintette mine at Mount Babcock remains on hold.