Coal Mining in Alberta's Eastern Slopes

First Nations and landowners request review of coal policy rescindment

Court challenges are expected to begin next week over the Alberta government’s decision to rescind the coal policy, which restricted exploration and development of open-pit coal mines in the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

Separate requests for judicial review have been filed by Ermineskin and Whitefish Lake First Nations, Siksika and Kainai First Nations and ranchers with the Livingstone Landowners Group, noting concerns for headwaters protections and a lack of consultation.

Meanwhile, coal exploration plans were discovered to surround five popular recreation areas in southwestern Alberta, and one exploration lease extends into an existing recreation area. 

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Previous Updates

December 16, 2020

Following the recission of Alberta's 1976 Coal Policy in the spring, the Alberta Government has taken additional steps to open up the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies in southern Alberta to metallurgical coal mining. The government has proposed changes to the water allocation order in the Oldman River watershed to make additional water available for industrial uses.

The government also made its first public offering of new coal leases in regions previously protected by the former Coal Policy. This offering was announced on the heels of the final day of the public hearing into the proposed Grassy Mountain Coal Project, the first of several mountain-top removal coal mines proposed for the southern Rockies.

Changes to water access for coal development

Proposed changes to the water allocation order in the Oldman River watershed may make up to 13,568,000 cubic metres of water available for industrial uses, including for coal developments in the eastern slopes. The proposed changes were presented by Alberta Environment and Parks in an information briefing on November 20, 2020.

This proposed change will group all water-use activities – including irrigation, drinking water supplies and industrial uses – into one category. In a watershed with already limited supply, this change is expected to impact the existing water market in southern Alberta and flow in rivers and headwaters.

Alberta offers new coal leases in southern Alberta Rockies

On December 3, 2020, Alberta Energy made the first public offering of coal leases in the southern Alberta Rockies since the recission of the 1976 Coal Policy in May.


August 1, 2020

Rescinding the Coal Policy

The Alberta government rescinded the 1976 Coal Policy on June 1, 2020 saying the policy was no longer relevant due to regulatory changes and new approaches in land use planning since the 1970s. However, gaps in land use plans (particularly in the eastern slopes region) may leave sensitive regions open to coal development.