Alberta is immediately halting coal exploration in the most sensitive areas of the Rocky Mountains while it continues to gather public feedback about mines.
A panel struck to carry out consultations says it is responding to concerns raised by Albertans, including those who participated in an online survey.
“In response to concerns from Albertans, all coal exploration projects on Category 2 lands will be halted immediately,” Energy Minister Sonya Savage said at a news conference Friday.
“The majority of our (survey) respondents feel there are areas of the province that are not appropriate for coal development,” added committee chairman Ron Wallace.
The panel said almost 25,000 people participated in the survey between March 29 and April 19. It said an initial review of the results shows many respondents have significant concerns about coal exploration.
Savage said she has directed coal companies to stop exploration and the companies have indicated they will co-operate.
The survey and panel were created by the United Conservative government after it faced intense resistance to its plan to dramatically expand open-pit coal mining in the province’s summits and foothills.
Tens of thousands of hectares along the province’s mountainous western spine have been leased for coal exploration.
Although the government has stopped selling new leases, drilling and road-building on leases already sold had been expected to continue.