Edmonton

New Alberta coal policy coming next week, energy minister says

The Alberta government will unveil a new coal policy next week intended to quell rising concern about a potential expansion of mining on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, the energy minister says.

Mountaintop mining to be prohibited

Alberta's energy minister says a new coal policy is coming next week, and it will hopefully calm some of the outrage after the provincial government quietly rescinded a policy that has protected the eastern Rocky Mountain slopes from mining for decades. (CBC)

The Alberta government will unveil a new coal policy next week intended to quell rising concern about a potential expansion of mining on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, the energy minister says.

"I'm very, very aware of the concerns and the growing concerns and we will be addressing it," Minister Sonya Savage said in a Thursday interview with Radio-Canada. "There was never any intention when the coal policy was rescinded to change any of the restrictions or any of the protections in the eastern slopes."

Mountaintop mining will be a no-go, she said.

"The concept of blowing the tops off the mountains, that will not happen."

The  government is facing increasing blowback for deciding last spring, without consultation, to revoke a 1976 policy blocking open-pit coal mining on the peaks and eastern slopes of the Rockies.

Among the critics are environmentalists, country music stars and municipal councils of communities downstream, such as Canmore and High River, who worry about preserving the province's iconic mountains and the potential for water pollution.

First Nations, environmental groups and some landowners are also challenging the government's decision in court.

Australian companies have been eyeing up the region to potentially expand production of metallurgical coal, which is used in steel making.

Consultations possible on new coal policy

In response to public pressure, Savage had already cancelled 11 recently-issued coal leases and paused consideration of future leases while the government reviewed the issue.

Savage said on Thursday some parts of the 1976 coal mining policy were outdated

"It predated climate change," she said, adding that it refers to thermal coal as if it were a clean source of energy. "It predated a number of modern environmental processes. But there are some things in there that were quite, quite important to people and we will be addressing that in the days ahead."

She said consultations on the new policy are possible, and that the government will be seeking the views of Albertans -- although, she didn't specify how.

On Wednesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Edmonton radio station 630 CHED that skeptics should put more faith in regulators, who would never approve new projects that would threaten water quality.

He said the debate was being partly fuelled by city dwellers who should have more respect for people who work in the mining industry.

Leah Ward, director of communications for the Alberta NDP, said members of the Opposition would have to see the details of a new coal policy before commenting.

"I'm concerned to hear that she is planning to announce a new policy without any public consultation," Ward said in an email.

With files from Audrey Neveu and the Canadian Press

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now