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Alberta government to extend pause on Rocky Mountain coal mine development

Four projects that have already entered the regulatory process will be able to continue that work
A section of the eastern slopes south west of Longview, Alta., on June 16, 2021. Coal mining in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains is on pause, the Alberta government announced March 4, after being a topic of public discussion in the province for months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The Alberta government is renewing and expanding its restrictions on coal mining in the province’s Rocky Mountains in response to two reports written after extensive public consultations on the issue.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage said Friday she is maintaining a ministerial order blocking all coal exploration and development in the region’s most sensitive lands. She is also extending that order to cover a much wider swath of the province’s summits and foothills.

Coal development will now be blocked on all the lands originally covered by the province’s 1976 coal policy until land-use plans, which require public consultation and legislative approval, are complete.

Four coal projects that have already entered the regulatory process will be able to continue that work, if the proponents choose.

“By keeping the 1976 coal policy firmly in place and halting coal activity in the eastern slopes, we are acting on the committee’s recommendation and allowing for additional planning for this unique area,” Savage said in a news release.

The announcement comes with the release of two reports, the result of nine months of work from a five-member panel that consulted widely across the province.

The panel held 67 sessions with more than 70 groups and received 176 written submissions.

The submissions and a survey with about 25,000 respondents have already been made public and show Albertans have major concerns with open-pit coal mining in one of the province’s best-loved and most environmentally sensitive landscapes.

Coal mining in the Rockies has been a hot topic in Alberta for two years, ever since the United Conservative government revoked the policy that had protected those summits and foothills since 1976.

Thousands of hectares were quickly leased for exploration, but a public outcry forced the government to halt those activities and pause lease sales until the panel reported.

—Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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