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The Alberta government has bowed to public pressure and paused coal exploration in the most sensitive areas of the Rocky Mountains while it continues to gather public feedback about mines.

“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.Although the government stopped selling new leases earlier this year, drilling and road-building on existing leases had been expected to continue.

Savage also said a panel struck to gather public input into the United Conservative government’s plan to dramatically expand the industry will be able to hear concerns about effects on land and water.

“Of course, Albertans can talk about their concerns on the impact of coal on water and the environment and tourism. We want to hear those concerns.”

The panel’s terms of reference suggested those concerns were off the table because they were not under the control of the Energy Department. Savage said Friday she has enough jurisdiction over environmental concerns to include land and water in the consultations.