The Brule occurrence (Lower Seam adit) is located near the headwaters of Blind Creek about 37 kilometres south of Chetwynd.
The Lower Cretaceous Gething Formation (Bullhead Group) is the main coal-bearing unit at Burnt River and is up to 400 metres thick and consists of interbedded sandstones, siltstones, mudstones, bentonites and semi-anthracite low volatile, low sulphur and high heat value coal. The sediments are generally fine-grained and carbonaceous with some crossbedding and soft sediment deformation structures. The lithologies exhibit extreme thickening and thinning over short distances, and abundant facies changes.
Nine main coal seams occur in the Middle and Upper Gething Formation. They are designated from oldest to youngest: Marker A, A-A, B, Lower seam, Upper seam, Marker C, D, Seam 60 and Marker E. These vary in thickness from 0.5 to 1.5 metres for markers and 0.5 to 11.0 metres for seams. All markers have carbonaceous mudstone, floor and roof, and are predominantly of interest as marker horizons.
The Lower seam is the most consistent with respect to extent and quality. It varies in thickness from 2 to 11 metres and is on average 3.2 metres and 6.2 metres thick in the south and north of the main reserve area, respectively. The seam shows no rock partings except at the southern edge of the property where it is thin with a mineable rock parting. Average ash content is 6.9 per cent, volatile matter is 13.2 per cent, fixed carbon is 79.0 per cent, inherent moisture is 0.9 per cent, sulphur is 0.40 per cent, calorific content of 7910 calories per gram and average thickness of 4.15 metres.
The Upper seam averages 3.2 to 2.8 metres in width and is usually split by a 30 to 60 centimetre shale parting in the north of the deposit. The seam thins and pinches out to the north. The seam is thick and clean in the south where ash levels are 4 to 5 per cent on three metre intercepts. Ash levels increase to 8 to 12 per cent in the north on thinner seams. Average ash is 8.1 per cent, inherent moisture is 0.8 per cent, volatile matter is 13.2 per cent, fixed carbon is 77.9 per cent, sulphur is 0.41 per cent and calorific value of 7800 calories per gram.
The majority of Seam 60 reserves are in the southwest where quality and thickness are consistent. The seam thins and is cleaner to the north. It contains two major high ash zones (25 to 40 per cent ash) and minor rock partings. The lower high ash zone splits the seam in the north. Average seam analysis across 5.87 metres thickness yielded 0.8 per cent inherent moisture, 11.2 per cent ash, 16.1 per cent volatile matter, 71.9 per cent fixed carbon, 0.32 per cent sulphur, and calorific content of 7550 calories per gram.
The structure consists of a series of tight folds and numerous faults. The folds are asymmetrical with northwest-trending axes that plunge to the north or south. Coal seams may have undergone ductile deformation along fold axes. The main reserve area (Brule deposit), is dominated by folds trending northwest and several west dipping thrust faults.
Two regional faults cut the property, the Mount Chamberlain fault in the southwest and the Bullmoose thrust fault east of the Blind Creek syncline. Between these faults, the property is transected by several southwest dipping thrust faults dipping 10 to 40 degrees, which repeat the Lower Gething and Bernot formations across the property.
Drill indicated, inferred and potential reserves for the Big Seams, middle seams and seismic seams as well as marker seams in excess of 1 metre thick are 23,808,000 tonnes; the overall stripping ratio for the reserves is 5.6 cubic metres of overburden per tonne of run-of-mine coal assuming an ultimate pit highwall angle of 45 degrees (Mine Development Assessment Process - Stage I Report, Burnt River Coal Project, January 1981).
Western Canadian Coal Corp. announced in May 1999 that they had acquired the coal leases covering the Burnt River deposits. Late in 2003, Western Canadian Coal Corp. initiated a 10 to 12 hole rotary and core drilling program on its Burnt River coal property. In 2004, Western Canadian Coal completed a major exploration program on the Brule deposit. The program included about 2700 metres of rotary and diamond drilling and large diameter spot coring of coal seams to obtain a bulk sample for coal quality testing.
The Brule deposit is adjacent to and included with the Dillon mine. The much larger Owl syncline contains the Brule deposit. All three seams are represented at Brule. The Brule deposit contains a resource of 36.21 million tonnes of Measured and 0.01 million tonnes of Indicated in-situ low volatile bituminous coal and the Blind deposit contains a resource of 2.36 million tonnes of Inferred in-situ low volatile bituminous coal (http://www.westerncoal.com).
Western Canadian Coal Corp. announced that commercial production had begun December 6, 2004 to exploit a mining reserve of 1.56 million tonnes at the Dillon deposit at an annual rate of 240,000 tonnes and will be campaign mined at a rate of up to 60,000 tonnes per month. Dillon coal reserves are contained in two separate seams, upper and lower, having a relatively low waste stripping ratio of 2.17:1. The upper seam averages 2.4 metres in thickness with 9.5 per cent ash content. The lower seam, containing the majority of the reserves, averages 5.2 metres and has a very low ash content of 3.4 per cent. The seams are mined separately and can be blended to produce a desired product. In July 2005, an amendment authorizing production increase to 80,000 tonnes per month was granted Western Canadian Coal Corp.
The coal is marketed as ultra-low volatile pulverized coal injection (ULV/PCI) product. Production totalled 30,000 tonnes in 2004, 715,000 tonnes in 2005, and 500,000 tonnes in 2006, at which point the Dillon Pit was mined out. In 2007, production began from the adjacent Brule and Blind pits, with 750,000 tonnes, followed by 1.3 million tonnes in 2008, 475,000 tonnes in 2009, 1.2 million tonnes in 2010, 1.3 million tonnes in 2011, 1.8 million tonnes in 2012, and 1.4 million tonnes in 2013. The Brule mine does not have a wash plant, so run-of-mine coal is trucked off-site for processing. From 2004 until the run-of-mine coal was trucked south 94 kilometres to the Bullmoose load-out facility. Since then, the Falls Creek connector road was completed, and Brule mine coal is trucked 60 kilometres north to the Willow Creek mine facility for processing and load-out. Approximately two thirds of the Brule mine coal product is very low ash and does not require washing. Sixty-nine boreholes for a total of 7340 metres were drilled for exploration and mine extension purposes between 2002 and 2013. The Brule mine produces PCI coal from three, 3.0 to 4.6 metre thick seams in the lower part of the Gething Formation. Brule mine produces only pulverized coal injection (PCI) coal, a high-rank thermal coal used to sustain blast furnace temperatures in steelmaking.
In December 2010, Western Coal Corp. agreed to be taken over by Walter Energy Inc. In Western Coal Corp.'s 2010 annual report, reserves were reported of 20.1 million tonnes proven and resources of 33.6 million tonnes measured (http://www.westerncoal.com).
Walter Energy Inc.’s coal operations consist of three surface mines that produce hard coking and low-volatile pulverized coal injection (PCI) coals (Perry Creek (Wolverine) mine (093P 025), Brule mine (093P 007), and Willow Creek mine (093O 008)). The Wolverine mine, located approximately 17 kilometres south of Tumbler Ridge, is an open pit metallurgical coal mine with a coal processing plant and a rail load-out facility capable of handling 3.5 million metric tons per year. The mine produces premium hard coking coal. The Willow Creek mine produces metallurgical coal comprised of an estimated one-third hard coking coal and two-thirds low-volatile pulverized coal (PCI). Willow Creek mine is located about 37 kilometres west of Chetwynd. It is an open pit metallurgical coal mine with a coal processing plant and a rail load-out facility. The Brule mine is an open pit metallurgical coal mine and produces a premium low-volatile PCI product. It is located about 37 kilometres south of Chetwynd. Coal from Brule is transported by truck to the Willow Creek mine for processing and shipping. The Willow Creek mine includes a processing plant and a load-out facility. Walter Energy currently operates the Willow Creek mine with Brule as a combined “Brazion Group”.
In April 2014, Walter Energy Inc. announced that it would idle its Canadian operations which includes the Brule and Perry Creek (Wolverine) mines; the Willow Creek mine had been idled in 2013. Walter will idle its Wolverine mine immediately, and expects to shutter the Brule mine by July 2014.
Production of about 2.2 million tonnes of run-of-mine coal was targeted for the year (2014), but the mine was placed on idle status at the end of June 2014. Hauling of stockpiled coal for processing and rail load-out at the Willow Creek mine continued for the remainder of the year. Reserves are 17.5 million tonnes saleable; Proven. Resource (Measured and Indicated) is 28.0 million tonnes in situ, December 31, 2011 (Exploration and Mining in British Columbia 2014, page 9).
In 2016, the Brule mine was purchased from Walter Canada, along with the nearby Wolverine and Willow Creek coal mines, by Conuma Coal Resources Ltd., a subsidiary of West Virginia-based mining company ERP Compliant Fuels. Late in 2016, Conuma Coal resumed production at the Brule and Perry Creek (Wolverine) mines and estimated 2017 production from the Brule was 2.33 million tonnes of ultra-low volatile PCI (pulverized coal injection) coal. Reserves at Brule as of December 31, 2016 were 16.3 million tonnes Proven (British Columbia Coal Industry Overview 2017).