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Alberta to change restrictions on foothills coal mining to ease development

22 May 2020

The Alberta government is changing its coal policies in a move it says is intended to make it easier to develop open-pit mines in one of the province's most sensitive areas.
 
"Government is placing a strong focus on creating the necessary conditions for the growth of export coal production," says a news release dated May 15.
 
The changes, to come into effect June 1, abolish graduated protections that have been in place since 1976 for land in Alberta's southwestern foothills.
 
The vast area of mountains, streams and meadows is home to threatened species such as grizzly bears and contains the headwaters for much of the fresh water in the southern prairies.
 
It has also been logged and mined for decades. The region produces coal for steel-making, not power generation.
 
Under the old rules, top protection was applied to the most sensitive land where no development was allowed. That classification remains.
 
Three lower levels allowed progressively more activity in proportion to the environmental value of the land. Those regulations were applied in advance of any assessment by the Alberta Energy Regulator.
 
Nissa Petterson of the Alberta Wilderness Association said it was an attempt to handle overall land management on a busy landscape.
 
"It operated at a higher level than a project-by-project basis," she said. "It was a high-tier, overarching policy."