Hat Creek Coal - 090202
One of the thickest accumulations of coal in the world is in the Hat Creek Valley. The Hat Creek Coal deposit is 26 kilometers long, 400 metres wide and 1,200 metres thick. When and how was it discovered? Well, therein lies a story.
In 1877, Dr. George Mercer Dawson of the Geological Survey of Canada was surveying, mapping and discovering the geology and geography of the Gold Country region for the Dominion of Canada and the Canadian Pacific Railway. As he surveyed the Hat Creek area for the potential of a railway corridor, he came upon the graben. A graben, created by a geological fault, is a low block of rock bordered by parallel fault scarps, or cliffs. Often referred to as a rift valley, visually you see a broad valley edged by broken rock formations. Little did Dawson know he had discovered one of the largest coal deposits in the world.
At Hat Creek the coal is full range from bright to dull brown, but most of it is massive, compact, fine grained, relatively solid, dull brownish-black rock. Fragments of petrified wood are common in the coal. Parts of the coal are also characterized by small lenses, globules and irregular shaped masses of light-yellow, semi-transparent fossilized amber (retinite). Rare fossils of forest and insect specimens dating back 50 million years have been found in the amber.
The area consists of Tertiary coal and classic sedimentary and volcanic formations that rest on Cretaceous volcanic rocks and metamorphosed Palaeozoic carbonates and greenstones.
In 1893, rancher George Finney sank the first shaft to supply coal to locals and the village of Ashcroft. In 1923 a Chinese syndicate began a more ambitious project to provide coal to the coast but it soon failed. The Clear Mountain Coal Company took over and was as equally unsuccessful. By 1925 it was Hat Creek Coal exploring with shafts, tunnels and drill holes, but again exploration soon became dormant that same year.
Beginning in 1933 L.D. Leonard mined a few hundred tonnes of coal, until 1942 when all activity ceased due to World War II. In 1957 the Hat Creek coal area passed to B.C. Electric, now known as B.C. Hydro, and again further exploration and drilling ceased by 1959. In 1974 B.C. Hydro resumed exploration of the site and began to mine sample quantities of coal. At this point protests began, continuing into the early 1980s and effectively preventing any further coal exploration or the development of a coal driven energy plant.
The Ashcroft Museum boasts an exceptional display diarizing and documenting the history of coal discovery and exploration in the Hat Creek area. For more information or just to view the amazing stages in this story drop in for a walk through time. To this day there remains controversy and opposition to any further exploration and exploitation of one of the largest coal accumulations in the world, the coal at Hat Creek in the heart of Gold Country.
Some interesting minerals present throughout the area include Bocanne, Buchite, Retinite and Poitevinite.