New Alberta coal policy coming next week, energy minister says
Mountaintop mining to be prohibited
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 "There was never any intention when the coal policy was rescinded to change any of the restrictions or any of the protections in the eastern slopes."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Savage said on Thursday some parts of the 1976 coal mining policy were outdated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