The East Kootenay Coalfields comprise three separate fields extending from the Montana border northward and known respectively as Flathead, Crowsnest, and Elk Valley coalfields. These are the most important coalfields of the province, having produced, since 1898, over 500 million tonnes of mainly metallurgical coal. All three fields are underlain by the Jura-Cretaceous Kootenay Group, which contains the 100 to 700 metres thick coal-bearing Mist Mountain Formation. Coal seams are found through out the formation though the thicker seams occur lower in the section. The formation contains from 4 to over 30 seams, which make up from 8% to 12% of the thickness of the formation. Cumulative coal thickness ranges up to over 70 metres. The area has experienced moderate to intense folding and thrust faulting, which has caused repetitions and structural thickening of seams. Rank varies from low to high-volatile A bituminous though most of the coal is medium-volatile bituminous and of metallurgical grade.
All the coal mined from the five open-pit mines in the East Kootenay coalfields is exported. The Crowsnest coalfield, approximately 60,000 hectares in size, is located in the southeast corner of BC, extending from southeast of Fernie to north of Sparwood. Fording Coal Limited owns and operates Coal Mountain Operations which in 2001 mined 2.4 million tonnes of high-volatile A bituminous weak coking coal. Most of the coal comes from a single seam near the base of the Mist Mountain Formation. The Elkview Mine (formally the Balmer Mine) is owned and operated by Teck-Cominco Corporation and is located in the northern end of Crowsnest Coalfield. In 2001 the mine produced 5.6 million tonnes of medium-volatile hard coking coal, mainly from the bottom four seams in the Mist Mountain Formation. The estimated natural gas resource in the Crowsnest coalfield is up to six trillion cubic feet.
There are three mines in the Elk Valley Coalfield. In the south the Line Creek Mine owned by Luscar Limited and operated by Line Creek Resources Limited, in 1999 sold about 2.8 million tonnes of which about 0.5 million tonnes was thermal coal. The metallurgical coal is a medium-volatile hard coking coal. In the northern part of the Elk Valley coalfield, Fording Coal Limited owns and operates the Greenhills Mine which produced 4.7 million tonnes of clean coal in 2001 and the Fording River mine (9.4 million tonnes clean coal production in 2001). Both these mines produced coal from a large number of seams through a thick Mist Mountain section and consequently sell medium and high-volatile coking coal.
In general thermal coal has similar quality characteristics except for higher ash and lower FSI values.
BC Geological Survey
British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines
For more information on Coal in BC