The coal company is seeking more than $3.4 billion in damages from the Alberta government over the policy change

Four months after the county government announced it was making a new turn over looming changes to coal policy, a private coal company says it has begun legal action based on the effects of that reversal.

Cabin Ridge Holdings Limited and Cabin Ridge Project Limited announced on June 30 that legal proceedings had begun against the government.

In a statement, the companies said the boycott had “significantly and unreasonably” interfered with the company’s own development rights and deprived it of “any reasonable use” of its mineral rights.

“The Cabin Ridge Companies have invested significantly in acquiring mineral freehold rights and project assets with the purpose of developing world-class minerals [steelmaking] Coal Project,” the statement reads.

The companies’ lawsuit statement filed on June 27 said they were seeking $3.441 billion in damages due to a “loss of net present value” of the property.

Instead, the claim says, the companies are seeking to recover $56 million in addition to future and emergency treatment costs.

The allegations have not been tested in court.

Read | Claim statement submitted by the companies behind the Cabin Ridge project:

The Cabin Ridge project is located approximately 50 kilometers north of Coleman, Alta, a community of just over 1,400 in southwest Alberta.

Unlike most coal companies in the county that have coal leases, the Cabin Ridge project includes approximately 5,000 hectares of mineral freehold, meaning that the coal is privately owned by the company.

The provincial government was hit with a barrage of criticism and legal challenges from landowners, municipalities and First Nations after it said in May 2020, without public consultation, that it would rescind Alberta’s 1976 coal policy that limited coal development in the eastern slopes.

Alberta Energy Secretary Sonia Savage announced the expansion of coal mining restrictions on Alberta’s eastern slopes in Calgary on March 4. (Todd Korroll/The Canadian Press)

In March, the government announced that it would keep this policy in place, preventing coal development and exploration activities in parts of the Rocky Mountains for the time being.

The companies claim that the government’s change of position represented an “actual expropriation” of their mineral property and prevented them from further developing their project.

It also claims that the move deprived companies of their “significant investment” in Alberta.

Without backing off, the companies claim that the proposed mine will create nearly 500 direct jobs during operations and about $2 billion in taxes and other revenue for the federal and provincial governments.

The director of a conservation program with the Canadian Parks and Wildlife Association (CPAWS) describes these claims as “fairly dubious.”

“Recent research has shown that job and revenue expectations for coal projects in Canada are often severely overstated,” said Becky Best Birtwistle.

“I am really disappointed to see that Cabin Ridge does not respect that Albertans have said no to any new coal developments in the Eastern Cliffs.”

There was no response as of press time to CBC’s requests for Cabin Ridge Holdings Ltd. and Cabin Ridge Project Ltd. For additional comment.

A spokesman for Alberta Energy Secretary Sonia Savage declined to comment, saying the department could not comment on court matters.

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