Coal Policy

Information and clarification about the Coal Policy.

Reinstatement of the 1976 Coal Policy

In response to concerns raised by Albertans about potential coal development on sensitive lands, we have reinstated the 1976 Coal Policy, including the 4 coal categories, as of February 8, 2021. Coal categories dictate where and how coal leasing, exploration and development can occur.

We are also reinforcing restrictions by providing specific direction to the Alberta Energy Regulator.

  • No mountain-top removal will be permitted and all of the restrictions under the 1976 coal categories are to apply, including all restrictions on surface mining in Category 2 lands.
  • All future coal exploration approvals on Category 2 lands will be prohibited pending widespread consultations on a new coal policy.

Coal lease sales on Category 2 lands remain paused.

See Information Letter 2021-07 for more information.

Coal exploration activity on Category 2 lands is paused, effective April 23, 2021.

All existing laws and regulations relating to coal development remain in place and unchanged. All coal development projects will continue to be considered through the existing rigorous Alberta Energy Regulator review process. This review is based on each project’s merits, including its economic, social and environmental impacts.

A Coal Development Policy for Alberta

A Coal Development Policy for Alberta (the Coal Policy) was originally published in 1976, before modern regulatory processes existed. The scope of the policy was wide-ranging and included, among other items, a land use classification system. The policy divided the province into 4 categories which dictated where and how coal leasing, exploration and development could occur.

The categories are as follows:

  • Category 1
    • National Parks, present or proposed Provincial Parks, Wilderness Areas, Designated Recreation Areas, Wildlife Sanctuaries, etc.
  • Category 2
    • Parts of the southern Rocky Mountains and Foothills
  • Category 3
    • Northern Forested Region and eastern portions of the Eastern Slopes
  • Category 4
    • Areas of the province not covered in other 3 categories

Previous rescission of the Coal Policy

Government rescinded A Coal Development Policy for Alberta (Coal Policy), effective June 1, 2020. See Information Letter 2020-23 and Coal Information Bulletin 2020-02 for more information.

The rescission of the coal policy was intended to be administrative, with the goal of updating the leasing process. However, the change led to lack of clarity around intended protections on sensitive lands. As indicated above, the 1976 Coal Policy, and the 4 coal categories, has since been reinstated


Connect with the Coal and Mineral Development Unit:

Hours: 8:15 am to noon and 1 pm to 4 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-427-7707
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Email: [email protected]


Alberta Energy and Minerals
Coal and Mineral Development Unit
North Petroleum Plaza
9945 108 Street *
Edmonton, Alberta  T5K 2G6

* Couriers, please report to the 2nd floor.

Calgary (drop-off location only)

Alberta Energy and Minerals
300, 801 6 Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta  T2P 3W2