An Alberta coal miner with exploration leases in the province's Rocky Mountains says he's trying to figure out how the government's decision to restore protections to those lands will affect his company.

Brad Johnston of Cabin Ridge says he doesn't know yet if his company will act on the exploration permits it holds on coal leases north of Coleman, Alta.

He says he and other miners have asked to meet with Energy Minister Sonya Savage to ask what she means by terms such as mountaintop removal, which Savage says won't be permitted on the lands that Cabin Ridge is exploring.

On Monday, Savage bowed to intense public pressure and reinstated a policy that has protected the mountains and foothills of the Rockies from surface coal mining since 1976.

However, Savage said exploration permit holders will be able to go ahead with activity such as drill sites and roads.

Johnston says his company didn't get a heads-up from the United Conservative government on the move.

But he says he wasn't completely surprised, given public concern over expansion of the industry.

Johnston says he welcomes the coming public consultation and believes Albertans can be convinced that coal can be sustainably mined in the eastern slopes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2021