Vancouver – Six years after receiving approval, Pine Valley Mining (PVM-V) has finally begun commercial-scale coal production at its wholly-owned Willow Creek mine in northeastern British Columbia.
The Willow Creek operation is situated about 45 km west of the town of Chetwynd and is accessible by logging road and paved highway. The Willow Creek coal licences and lease cover over 125 square km in the Liard mining division after the company expanded its existing property in April.
Three types of coal will be produced from the operation with about two thirds comprising pulverized coal injection (PCI) coal a cheaper alternative to coking coal used in the steel industry. The Willow Creek PCI coal is a high quality, low sulphur, low ash product.
A little less than a third of the reserves slated for production are higher value coking coal and there are a few hundred tonnes of thermal coal which will be blended with the other types. The lower three seams will be blended as PCI.
Norwest completed a preliminary feasibility study of the Pine Pass Block, which resulted in estimates of reserves of 9,546,000 recoverable tonnes and 8,924,000 saleable tonnes. The coal reserves and resources are based on 427 holes drilled from 1979-1981 and 1994-1997.
The company received a Project Approval Certificate from the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office for a mine permit for a 900,000 tonnes per year operation in 1998.
The company plans to more than double production from the current permitted level to 2 million tonnes per year which will require a permit amendment application.
Pine Valley has started extracting, crushing and trucking coal from the open pit to its rail siding from where it will be loaded onto rail cars and shipped to the Neptune Bulk Terminals coal port in North Vancouver. From there it will be shipped to steel mills in Asia and Europe.
While initially producing at a rate of 45,000 tonnes per month over the summer, the company is purchasing and installing permanent crushing, handling, and train loading equipment. The construction of a coal wash plant, should be completed by July 2005 and will allow the company to increase capacity, and begin production of its higher-value coking coal.