Straddling the border of Alberta and British Columbia, just south of Calgary, the Crowsnest Pass boasts a rich history of coal mining, dating back to opening of the first mine in 1900. Over the course of the 20th Century, all the coal mines on the Alberta side of the Canadian municipality closed, as the companies that operated the mines struggled with fluctuating coal prices, bitter strikes and industrial action, as well as fallout from underground accidents. A single coal mine operates just across the British Columbia border in Sparwood.
All this could be set to change, however, after a Calgary-based company received regulatory approval to begun exploratory drilling.
Altitude Resources Inc. has been granted permission from the Alberta Energy Regulator to drill four to six core holes for the purpose of coal quality analysis. The drilling programme, with an estimated budget of C$ 1.5 million, will begin as early as August or September.
“It’s the first step in a long process of technical work that we need to do,” said Altitude president and CEO Gene Wusaty. “If the coal quality is what we believe it is, then the next step is go out there and try to prove our resource target tonnage by doing a bunch more drilling.”
In 2013, Altitude Resources announced the formation of an alliance with Elan Coal Ltd, a privately-owned Canadian coal exploration and development company. The two companies signed an exploration and option agreement, in a deal that gives Altitude the option to earn up to a 51% working interest in 27 Alberta Crown coal lease applications (covering almost 23,000 ha.). The leases are located north of the town of Blairmore, 15 km north of Crowsnest Pass.
Altitude also has the right to conduct exploration activities on all parts of the leases. Last fall, surface samples obtained by the company in a preliminary field assessment indicated the presence of “mid-volatile” coal – a grade of coal ideal for use in steel production. The site’s proximity to a rail line would make it easy for the coal to be transported to West Coast ports and then exported to Asia.
The Elan property has been identified as having a 726 million t exploration target.
Site advantages holds allure for mining companies
A key advantage of the Elan site, other than the close proximity to useful rail links, is that it can draw on the substantial work that has already been done in the area.
Wusaty – the former CEO of Coalspur Mines Ltd, which is currently developing a thermal coal project near Hinton – said: “There’s been a lot of historical data at the site, and, although we need to re-verify the historical data, that’s really useful for steel makers who will be blending this coal.”
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