Coal Royalty Guidelines(1993) (PDF, 19 MB)
This information is routinely used in consideration of coal applications. Since this policy was published in 1976, some acts, regulations and organizations referred to have been superseded or re-named. Text in square brackets is modified from the original to make the policy more meaningful in the current context.

The complete Coal Development (PDF, 2.2 MB) Policy is available for an updated map of coal categories, please contact Coal and Mineral Development.

Colour version of the coal categories map (PDF, 5.7 MB)

Policy Section 3.13 classification of lands

Policy Section 3.13. Classification of Lands for Coal Exploration and Development

To address questions of environmental sensitivity, alternate land uses, potential coal resources and the extent of existing development of townsites and transportation facilities, the Government has classified Provincial lands into four categories with respect to coal exploration and development:

Category 1

In which no exploration or commercial development will be permitted. This category includes National Parks, present or proposed [parks, protected, recreation or research areas, or wildlife sanctuaries], settled urban areas and major lakes and rivers. These are areas for which it has been determined that alternative land uses have a higher priority than coal activity. Category 1 also includes most areas associated with high environmental sensitivity; these are areas for which reclamation of disturbed lands cannot be assured with existing technology and in which the watershed must be protected.

Category 2

In which limited exploration is desirable and may be permitted under strict control but in which commercial development by surface mining will not normally be considered at the present time. This category contains lands in the Rocky Mountains and Foothills for which the preferred land or resource use remains to be determined, or areas where infrastructure facilities are generally absent or considered inadequate to support major mining operations. In addition this category contains local areas of high environmental sensitivity in which neither exploration or development activities will be permitted. Underground mining or in-situ operations may be permitted in areas within this category where the surface effects of the operations are deemed to be environmentally acceptable.

Category 3

In which exploration is desirable and may be permitted under appropriate control but in which development by surface or underground mining or in-situ operations will be approved subject to proper assurances respecting protection of the environment and reclamation of disturbed lands and as the provision of needed infrastructure is determined to be in the public interest. This category covers the Northern Forested Regions and eastern portions of the Eastern Slopes Region. It also includes Class 1 and Class 2 agricultural lands [as classified by the Canada Land Inventory soil capability for agriculture system] in the settled regions of the Province. Although lands in this category are generally less sensitive from an environmental standpoint than the lands in Category 2, the Government will require appropriate assurances, with respect to surface mining operations on agricultural lands, that such lands will be reclaimed to a level of productivity equal to or greater than that which existed prior to mining.

Category 4

In which exploration may be permitted under appropriate control and in which surface or underground mining or in-situ operations may be considered subject to proper assurances respecting protection of the environment and reclamation of disturbed lands. This category covers the parts of the Province not included in the other three categories.

Table – a summary of the classification system

Table 1 (PDF, 107 KB) presents a summary of the classification system and the extent of exploration and development permitted in the four land categories.

The Government emphasizes that the present classification, while based upon the best available knowledge, is subject to review in the light of changing knowledge and new technology related to environment protection, reclamation and mining methods. The Government will consider documented applications for reclassification of lands from any interested persons. Such applications should be addressed to the ...[Minister of Energy]... with a copy to the Minister of Environment and Parks.

It is also important to note that lands in Category 2, 3 or 4 are not automatically open to exploration nor are lands in Category 3 or 4 automatically open to exploration and development. Each application for rights to explore, for leases to Crown coal rights and for authorization for development will be considered on its own merits. Particular care will be taken in the appraisal of applications for exploration or development in productive or potentially productive agricultural areas.


Connect with the Coal and Mineral Development Unit:

Hours: 8:15 am to noon and 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-427-7707
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)


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