Coal Development – Approval Suspension
On March 4, 2022, the Government of Alberta released a report from a coal policy committee it formed in early 2021 to gather feedback on future policy related to coal development in Alberta. Ministerial Order 002/2022 (the “Order”) was issued in response to the report.
Under the Order, the AER was directed to continue its suspension of all approvals and not accept any new applications for coal exploration activities on Category 2, 3, and 4 lands. The Order did not require suspension of coal exploration and development applications on Category 3 and 4 lands related to an advanced coal project or an active approval for a coal mine. The Order defines “advanced coal projects” and “active approvals for coal mines” as follows:
advanced coal project: Proposed coal projects where applicants have submitted a project summary to the AER to determine whether a proposed project requires an environmental impact assessment; and
active approval for a coal mine: Existing coal projects granted a licence to operate under the Coal Conservation Act.
This means that advanced coal projects will continue to be reviewed by the AER to ensure any proposed exploration or development is safe, environmentally responsible, meets all requirements, and that active coal mines can continue to operate on Category 3 and 4 lands within all AER requirements.
The directions will remain in place until either the Minister of Energy or the Minister of Environment and Parks gives written notice.
The Order does not restrict abandonment and reclamation, security, or safety activities on Category 2, 3, and 4 lands. Operators are permitted to proceed with abandonment and reclamation activities and to enter these sites to:
(a) monitor and ensure the site is left in a state that is safe to the environment, wildlife and public; and
(b) perform routine checks and maintenance at the site to ensure all property and equipment is secure from wildlife access, vandalism, and weather events.