Skip to main content

Alberta to renew and expand restrictions on coal mining in the Rocky Mountains


Reports outlining coal mining policy recommendations for Alberta's Rocky Mountains show residents have "strong opposition" to development — but four ongoing applications won't be canceled.

The long-awaited reports were made public Friday after multiple delays and a lengthy review by the province.

An independent coal policy committee formed by the government submitted the documents to Energy Minister Sonya Savage in December. 

The two reports are comprised of more than 1,000 emails and hundreds of written submissions, and they outline widespread disapproval from Albertans over changes in the Rockies. 

The studies suggest the province use its coal resources, but that it only proceed with development after policy is modernized and new proposals are properly assessed. 

The study also recommends more stakeholder consultation, especially with Indigenous groups.

In 2020, the UCP canceled decades-old environmental protections that made open-pit coal mines difficult to develop in Alberta. 

But the ensuing public outcry was intense, prompting the government to backpedal and promise to reinstate the protections in the Rockies until proper studies had been conducted.

A ministerial order announced Friday will halt all new coal exploration in Category 2, 3 and 4 lands, as defined by a 1976 government policy.


Four projects that are in various stages of the review process won't be unilaterally canceled by the province, despite reports outlining public and environmental concerns. 

The Grassy Mountain, Tent Mountain, Vista and Mine 14 projects are all considered to be in "advanced" stages, according to the documents. 

There is no guarantee they will be approved — in fact, one project already looks to be in trouble — but they won't be stopped. 

All other exploration will be restricted through a ministerial order, at least until land-use planning has been done. 

A review panel for the Alberta Energy Regulator previously denied the provincial application for the Grassy Mountain coal project, and the federal regulator has referred to it as "likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects," especially to the area's surface water quality. 

It's proposed just north of Blairmore. 

Officials say they are still waiting on clarification from the development company on its next steps. 


The reviews show Albertans and stakeholder groups have "strong opposition to coal development in the Eastern Slopes."

They cite "concerns about impact of coal mining on water, landscapes and ecosystems," something many residents have been touting for almost two years. 

Multiple protests have been held on the subject, and lawn signs asking the province to protect the slopes are a common sight in both Calgary and Edmonton. 

"It's a hardline 'no' to coal," Piikani First Nation protester Adam North Peigan told CTV News in November. "Open-pit coal mining is going to desecrate our ancestral territory of Treaty 7. It's going to have detrimental harms to our communities today and for our grandchildren."

Many First Nations are worried about the potential environmental impact to land in the area, insisting any and all development could poison their water supply.

But the reports also say "a few" municipalities spoke to the value of jobs and economic impacts of coal activity.

It continues, "Indigenous communities have diverse perspectives, (including) support for coal development conditional on landscape and environmental protection, and protection of treaty rights."


Alberta's opposition NDP say Friday's announcement has "left the door open" for coal mining in the Rockies despite "strong opposition" from Albertans.

"The UCP has already proven they can’t be trusted to protect our mountains,” said NDP Energy Critic Kathleen Ganley in a news release. "They already opened up the Rockies for open pit coal mining with the stroke of a pen, and they could do it again under this plan."

The NDP argue that the government's plan to keep a ministerial order in place means the minister has sole power over whether or not to keep the 1976 Lougheed Coal Policy in place.

“Albertans have been clear: they don’t want open-pit coal mining in the Rockies. If the UCP was serious about protecting our drinking water and downstream jobs, they would enshrine a ban in legislation,”said Ganley. Top Stories

Stay Connected