Blue Creek is a large block of premium-quality metallurgical coal reserves being developed in Alabama, US. It is believed to be one of the last-remaining hard coking coal deposits of such size in the US.
Warrior Met Coal, which operates two adjacent underground coal mines namely, Mine No. 4 and Mine No. 7, is the owner and developer of the Blue Creek coking coal project. After completing a final feasibility study, the company announced the launch of the project development in February 2020.
Warrior Met Coal plans to develop the Blue Creek coking coal deposit as a single longwall underground mine with an estimated investment of up to £460m ($600m) in the next five years.
The start of initial coal production is expected in the third quarter of 2023, while the commercial-scale longwall operations are expected to start in the second quarter of 2025.
The Blue Creek project is expected to produce an annual average of 3.9 million tonnes (Mt) of high-quality hard coking coal during the first ten years of production. The total mine life of the project is estimated to be 50 years.
Location and geology
The Blue Creek coal project is located in the Southern Appalachian Basin in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, US. The mine site is located approximately 480km away from the export terminal at the Port of Mobile in Alabama.
The Blue Creek coal mine site is located to the northwest of the existing Mine No. 4. The project targets the Mary Lee coal seam which has an average thickness of 5.2m. The Mary Lee coal seam lies over the Blue Creek coal seam. The two coal seams are separated by a 2ft-thick rock formation. The adjacent Mine No. 4 and the Mine No. 4 target both the Blue Creek and the Mary Lee coal beds.
The coal resources of the Blue Creek project are characterised by low-ash and low-sulphur contents and offer high coking strength with low coking pressure. The ash content of the coal is 9.10%, while the sulphur content is as low as 0.70%.
Coal reserves at Blue Creek
The Blue Creek coking coal project is estimated to hold 103Mt recoverable coal reserves including 64.3Mt of proven and 38.7Mt of probable reserves.
The recoverable reserves can be increased to 170Mt by acquiring adjacent reserves as well.
Mining and coal handling for the Blue Creek project
The longwall underground mining method will be implemented for the Blue Creek coal project.
The initial coal extraction is expected to be started with the use of continuous miner units in the first half of 2023, while longwall mining is expected to be initiated in the first half of 2025.
The extracted coal will be transported to the surface via a conveyor system. From the mine surface, the coal will be further sent to the nearby metallurgical coal preparation and blending facilities.
The final coal product from the mine will be transported through rail or barge to the McDuffie coal terminal at the Port of Mobile, Alabama. The annual throughput capacity of the coal terminal is 27.2Mt.
The latest reserve report for the Blue Creek coking coal project was prepared by Stantec Consulting Service, while Canada-based Norwest Corporation was engaged to prepare the previous reserve report for the project.