Western Coal Corp. will extend the life of its Willow Creek mine in northeastern British Columbia, due to an 88 per cent increase in estimated coal reserves to 29.6 million tonnes.
The coal mine's processing plant and rail-loading facility near Chetwynd, B.C., will also be expanded by late 2011, the Vancouver-based company announced Friday.
The expanded mine is now expected to produce 1.7 million tonnes of coal a year over a 13-year mine life, Western Coal said Friday in announcing the revised reserve estimate.
At full capacity, more than 300 people will be employed at the mine and plant facilities.
The expanded processing and rail infrastructure will be able to handle 3.7 million tonnes of coal a year - more than double what Willow Creek is expected to produce after the expansion.
As a result, Western Coal says there's no need to build a plant and loading facility at its nearby Brule mine.
The company said the Willow Creek mine will re-open two months ahead of schedule, without providing a date.
A previous outlook in March said the mine was expected at that time to restart in the second quarter of fiscal 2011, which began April 1 of this year. That suggested Willow Creek mining would begin in the July-September time-frame, prior to the revised estimate issued Friday.
Western Coal president and CEO Keith Calder said the mine's reopening is an important part of its plans to increase production of its northeastern B.C. mines from 2.2 million to six million tonnes in three years.
"With coal markets continuing to move in our favour, Western will be investing the strong cash flow generated to further reduce costs and increase its size and scale to become a major global metallurgical coal producer, all of which will provide even greater stability for employees, communities and our shareholders over the long-term," he said in a statement.
A recently completed pre feasibility study identified a 40 per cent increase in potential available coal on the Willow Creek property.
Western Coal operates mines in British Columbia and West Virginia. It also owns about 55 per cent of Energybuild Group PLC in Britain and interest in three other mining companies.