The government of Alberta has decided to halt its plans to expand the area open to coal mining in the Rocky Mountains.
The decision to cancel 11 recently-issued coal leases and pause any future coal lease sales on former Category 2 lands was made following a growing wave of public opposition.
Ranchers in the area have been raising concerns about new coal developments, and several well-known Albertans, including singer/songwriters Corb Lund and Paul Brandt, issued public statements opposing the new mining.
The government’s rescindment of the 1976 policy meant putting significant grazing land and water sources at risk, according to ranchers.
More than 100,000 signatures had been collected by Monday on two petitions opposing the United Conservative government’s move on two related fronts. A Facebook site called “Protect Alberta’s Rockies and Headwaters” has more than doubled its membership over the last week to more than 10,000 people.
Sonya Savage, Alberta’s Minister of Energy, says they listened carefully to the concerns raised in recent days, and thanked those who spoke up with passion.
“I want to be absolutely clear: Under the current terms, just as it was under the 1976 coal policy, coal leases do not allow for exploration, development or production without a comprehensive regulatory review,” she says. “A lease holder has no more right to set food on lease property than any other Albertan. The same rules apply now, as before,” adding that coal development remains an important part of the western Canadian economy — especially in rural communities — but that the Ministry of Energy is committed to demonstrating that it will only be developed responsibly under Alberta’s modern regulatory standards and processes.
The coal leases from the December 2020 auction will be cancelled as well.