The Government of Alberta is immediately halting all coal exploration projects on Category 2 lands, which are parts of the southern Rocky Mountains and Foothills.
Almost 25,000 Albertans shared feedback to help inform the next steps of the coal policy engagement through an online survey from March 29 to this past Monday.
An initial review of the results illustrates that many Albertans have significant concerns about coal exploration, the government said in a statement Friday.
Based on this, the coal policy committee – an independent group appointed to lead public engagement to inform the development of a modern coal policy – has recommended to the government that coal exploration in Category 2 lands be suspended.
Energy Minister Sonya Savage has directed coal companies to halt exploration. The affected companies have indicated they will cooperate with the pause.
“Thank you to the thousands of Albertans who took part in the initial survey. Your voices are being heard,” said Savage.
“We are halting exploration activities in Category 2 lands because we remain steadfast in our commitment to having an open and honest conversation about the long-term approach to coal development in our province.”
Ron Wallace, coal policy committee chair, said halting exploration on Category 2 lands was a “necessary first step” to ensure that the public engagement process can continue.
”Our committee has made that recommendation to the minister and she has accepted it. Now that the minister has established this moratorium on exploration, we encourage all Albertans to continue to participate with our committee in the widespread public engagement over the coming months as we develop our broader policy recommendations,” said Wallace.
The majority of respondents felt the management of the province’s coal resources affect them and expressed concerns about coal exploration.
“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 felt there are areas of the province that are not appropriate for coal development, while almost one-third of respondents say there are areas of the province where development could be appropriate, according to the provincial government.
The coal policy committee is continuing to review the survey results. The results will help inform the next steps in the public engagement process, with more information available in the near future.
Marlin Schmidt, NDP critic for environment and parks, said it’s a positive step forward for the tens of thousands of Albertans who have spoken out against this government and its secret coal plot.”
“But let’s be clear about how we got to this point: this government fast-tracked coal exploration and the expansion of open-pit coal mines without ever consulting Albertans and Minister Sonya Savage admitted today that Albertans are not in favour of that,” said Schmidt.