The Quintette (Babcock) coal occurrence is located at and near the summit of Mount Babcock, approximately 22 kilometres south of Tumbler Ridge.
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 the rocks are part of the Foreland thrust and fold belt of the North American Cordillera.
The coal measures of the region occur mainly in Lower Cretaceous sediments deposited unconformably on older miogeoclinal strata. These sediments were subjected to fold and thrust tectonics that also affected the older rocks.
The Lower Cretaceous lower to upper middle Gates Formation (Fort St. John Group; 105 to 125 metres) contains, from youngest to oldest, coal seams D, E, F, G/I, J and K in the Babcock area interbedded with sandstone, siltstone, claystone and mudstone. These are of medium volatile bituminous coking coal with thicknesses that are considered mineable for each seam. The D seam is 1.6 to 3.7 metres thick with few partings, E is 2.3 to 3.5 metres thick with at least two clastic intervals, F is 1.35 to 3.8 metres thick with variable numbers of partings, G/I is on average 2.4 metres thick with few partings, J (the thickest seam) is 3.7 to 7.6 metres thick with variable number and continuity of partings and K averages approximately 2 metres thick with several minor, and in some areas major, clastic partings.
The structure consists of a main broad box anticline plunging approximately 7 degrees to the southeast. Refer to Quintette (MINFILE 093P 019) for production, further information and references.
In 1972, the John T. Boyd Company conducted a coal reserve study and mining plan for the Mount Babcock area of the Quintette project. The Quintette project consists of 253 coal licenses stretching 13 kilometres wide and 48 kilometres long. The property extends from Kinuseo Creek in the south to Perry Creek in the north. An outcrop of the D seam was reported to occur on the northwestern flank of Mount Babcock at elevations from 1590 to 1680 metres, with the other seams outcropping at corresponding lower interval elevations. The mine plan proposed by the John T. Boyd Company involved two mines operated concurrently in the D and F seams initially, with each mine producing 1 540 000 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 minimal amount of change. The joint exploration program performed on the Babcock Mountain property included 7 rotary drill holes, 18 diamond drill holes and 13 adits.
During 1975, exploration of the Windy pit involved detailed geological mapping, 12 diamond drill holes and 20 rotary drill holes. The drilling was located to confirm the location of coal seams and to define the extent of oxidation.
Metallurgical plant-feed coal totals 100 900 000 tonnes plus 6 300 000 tonnes of thermal plant-feed coal in six mineable seams (Mine Development Assessment Process - Stage II Report, Volume 1, Quintette Coal Limited, May 1982).
Exploration in 1995 identified two areas, Mesa Extension (MINFILE 093P 019; 7 million tonnes) and mining along contour at Babcock (12 million tonnes), that would add approximately 19 million tonnes of clean coal to the reserve total at Quintette (T. Schroeter, personal communication, 1997).
Approximately one-third of 1998 production was from the Little and Big Windy developments, operated by Teck Corporation. Production is included with Quintette (MINFILE 093P 019). The remaining mineable reserves are contained in the Babcock, Mesa (MINFILE 093P 019) and Mesa Extension (MINFILE 093P 019) 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 tonne 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.
The Quintette coal mine closed on August 17, 2000 (Information Circular 2001-1, page 6).
The original Quintette coal licenses were acquired by Denison Mines Limited in 1969 and 1970. The first coal exploration on the property was undertaken by Denison in 1971. For the purpose of developing the coal licences, Quintette Coal Limited was incorporated in December 1971. A significant exploration program was completed each of the following years to 1977. Smaller programs were conducted in 1979 and 1980. In 1981, Quintette Coal Limited conducted an exploration program primarily in three planned mine areas: Babcock, Sheriff and Frame (MINFILE 093P 020). The program included geological mapping, diamond drilling, rotary drilling and driving adits.
In 2010 and 2011, Teck Coal Limited actively examined the possibility of reopening the former Quintette mine (Windy and Window pits). The Quintette mine was a coal producer for almost 18 years from 1982 up to August 2000, with development in 1998 of opencuts on Mount Babcock (Big and Little Windy) producing approximately 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 (MINFILE 093I 030) and Waterfall anticline. It is a box fold anticline structure with a coal sequence similar to that of the Trend mine (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.
I n 2012, restart of Teck’s Quintette mine project was 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 (MINFILE 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, 2012, during the caribou low-risk timing window. Dismantling and stockpiling of the old 13-kilometre conveyor from the Mesa pit was completed. The estimated resource is 180.5 million tonnes (measured and indicated), and 136.5 million tonnes (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).
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 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 opencut 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-metre 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 of 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 to defer $300 million of capital expenditures in 2013 and $350 million in early 2014. Detailed engineering work was planned to 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 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) were 41.1 million tonnes clean coal and resources (measured and indicated) were 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).
As of December 2016, proven and probable reserves included 35.8 million tonnes of clean metallurgical coal and 1.2 million tonnes of clean thermal coal. Resources included 32.2 million tonnes (measured), 92 million tonnes (inferred) and 114.4 million tonnes (inferred) of raw metallurgical coal, in addition to resources of 30 000 tonnes (measured), 200 000 tonnes (indicated), and 200 000 tonnes (inferred) of raw thermal coal (2016 Teck Annual Information Form, www.teck.com).
In 2021, the planned reopening of the Teck Resources Limited’s Quintette mine at Mount Babcock remains on hold.