Keeping Alberta Affordable: Eligible seniors and families with children under 18 can apply for $600 affordability payments. Learn more and apply now
We gathered feedback to help us develop a modern coal policy that will protect the areas Albertans cherish, while allowing responsible resource development in appropriate places.
The Coal Policy Committee was formed to lead a comprehensive engagement and to ensure the views of all Albertans were represented.
The committee considered feedback from Albertans, Indigenous people, communities and organizations to inform their final report and recommendations.
Results under review
Who is listening
Ministry of Energy
Albertans shared feedback to help inform the next steps of the coal policy engagement through an online survey from March 29 to April 19, 2021.
Technical submissions were sent to the committee between May 17 and September 19, 2021.
The committee provided the following advice and recommendations to the Minister of Energy in their engagement and final reports.
- Engaging Albertans about coal
- Final report: Recommendations for the management of coal resources in Alberta
Analysis of the online survey results
This is a summary of feedback received through the online survey held March 29 to April 19, 2021:
- The majority of Albertans feel the management of the province’s coal resources affect them.
- “Environmental impacts of coal development” and “if and where coal development takes place” were ranked by respondents as the most important issues when discussing Alberta’s coal policy.
- The majority of respondents feel there are areas of the province that are not appropriate for coal development, while almost one-third of respondents say that there are areas of the province where development could be appropriate.
- Albertans would like to participate in additional online surveys and virtual meetings, as well as provide input directly to the committee.
- Respondents want to learn more about the approval processes for exploration and development, as well as the coal categories, which dictate where and how coal leasing, exploration and development can occur.
- The majority of respondents expressed concerns about coal exploration and development.
In response to recommendations made in the Coal Policy Committee's final reports, we are expanding restrictions on coal-related activities in the Eastern Slopes until effective land-use planning is completed for the area.
We will address concerns about the management of coal resources raised in the reports through existing legislation and regulations that have superseded the 1976 Coal Policy. Many wide-ranging initiatives are already underway that align with the committee’s recommendations.
In response to the recommendations, we are expanding the restrictions on coal exploration and development in the Eastern Slopes until land-use planning can be completed.
Through a Ministerial Order, coal exploration and development activities in the Eastern Slopes will now be restricted on all Category 2, 3 and 4 lands. The restrictions will remain in effect until direction on coal activities has been embedded in completed or updated land-use plans.
- All existing legislation related to coal activities and Alberta’s rigorous regulatory system remain in place.
- The 1976 Coal Policy also continues to apply across the province. This includes freehold coal rights.
- Activities already in progress for active mines and advanced projects can continue, as well as activities related to security or safety.
- Abandonment and reclamation activities can resume.
See Ministerial Order 002/2022 for more details.
Land-use planning in Alberta considers multiple uses and the cumulative impacts of various activities on our landscape, and is informed by comprehensive consultation with Albertans, Indigenous communities and other stakeholders.
We intend to embed the coal categories from the 1976 Coal Policy into the Eastern Slopes Policy in the coming months. Coal activities will be addressed in integrated regional and sub-regional land use planning processes in the future.
While land-use planning will provide direction regarding where coal mining activities may be allowed, Alberta’s rigorous regulatory processes will continue to be employed to assess the potential impacts of a proposed coal project and, if deemed to be in the public interest, ensure that appropriate rules, limits and oversight are in place to protect the environment.
Existing mines will continue to be subject to all existing policies and legislation and to Alberta’s rigorous regulatory system, which is overseen by the Alberta Energy Regulator. Land-use plans may provide new direction that is relevant to operations and reclamation of existing mines. Once land use planning has been completed, existing mines will be subject to land use direction provided in the plan.
We have started work on a number of wide-ranging initiatives that align with the committee’s recommendations.
- A selenium management review to examine Alberta’s current regulatory requirements and assess relevant policy tools used in comparable jurisdictions.
- New surface water quality management frameworks for the North Saskatchewan, Battle and upper Athabasca rivers to protect water quality and manage cumulative effects.
- A review of the Mine Financial Security Program to ensure it adequately covers the industry’s reclamation liabilities and protects taxpayers.
- Alberta will provide its feedback to Environment and Climate Change Canada regarding a proposed approach for federal Coal Mining Effluent Regulations, which are expected to be finalized by the end of 2023.
- Alberta Environment and Parks is currently monitoring water quality, including selenium levels, at 116 river and tributary sites across Alberta, plus an additional 31 tributary sites through the oil sands monitoring program.
Reinstatement of 1976 Coal Policy
As a result of concerns raised about potential coal development on sensitive lands, we reinstated the 1976 Coal Policy, including the 4 coal categories, as of February 8, 2021. Coal categories set where and how coal leasing, exploration and development can occur.
We are also reinforcing restrictions by providing specific direction to the Alberta Energy Regulator:
- All restrictions under the 1976 coal categories are to apply, including all restrictions on surface mining in Category 2 lands. In addition, no mountain top removal will be permitted.
- All future coal exploration approvals on Category 2 lands will be prohibited pending widespread consultations on a new coal policy.
Coal lease sales in Category 2 lands also remain paused while we examine Alberta’s long-term approach to coal development.
Learn more about the Coal Policy.
Coal exploration halted on Category 2 lands
Based on input from Albertans, the initial survey results and a recommendation from the Coal Policy Committee, the Minister of Energy directed coal companies to halt exploration on Category 2 lands, effective April 23. On November 10, the order was extended until further notice.
- Ministerial Order 093/2021 - direction to halt coal exploration activities on Category 2 lands under the Responsible Energy Development Act.
Coal Policy Committee
The committee led a widespread engagement process that captured the views of Albertans and Indigenous people. The members represented a wide-range of perspectives on coal development.
Read the committee's terms of reference (PDF, 77 KB)
Ron Wallace, chair
Ron Wallace is an internationally recognized expert in regulatory policies associated with environmental assessment and monitoring. He has served on numerous regulatory boards dealing with energy and environmental issues, in addition to extensive experience in the private sector. He was also a permanent member of the National Energy Board.
Fred Bradley is a former Alberta minister of the environment under Premier Peter Lougheed and served as MLA for Pincher Creek-Crowsnest. He has previously served as the chair of the Alberta Research Council and chair of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation Board.
Natalie Charlton is the executive director at Hinton and District Chamber of Commerce. She has served on various boards and has experience advocating for alternative energy resources.
Bill Trafford is the president of the Livingstone Landowners’ Group, which represents landowners and supporters of the Livingstone-Porcupine area of Alberta. He has 35 years of experience in the IT industry and the health sector.
Eric North Peigan
Eric North Peigan is a member of Piikani Nation, a jeweler and silversmith by trade, and a small business owner. He has operated a jewelry business for more than 30 years and, more recently, has opened White Buffalo Tipi camp, which provides an immersive cultural experience for tourists.
- Getting it right on coal in Alberta (March 4, 2022)
- Coal policy reports received: Minister Savage (December 29, 2021)
- Coal policy report deadline extended: Joint statement (November 10, 2021)
- Coal exploration halted on Category 2 lands (April 23, 2021)
- Engaging with Albertans on a modern coal policy (March 29, 2021)
- Coal consultation: Minister Savage (February 23, 2021)
- Alberta’s 1976 coal policy reinstated (February 8, 2021)
- Coal leases: Minister Savage (January 18, 2021)
Last updated: March 4, 2022