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The Canadian province of Alberta is expanding restrictions on all new coal exploration and development activities on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains until it finalizes new land use policies, the government said on Friday.

The United Conservative Party government had already halted coal exploration on so-called “category 2” lands last April, and Friday’s decision extends that to all lands.

Alberta will also keep in place a 1976 policy limiting access to coal miners, Energy Minister Sonya Savage said.

The government had been planning to revoke that policy and open up the eastern slopes of the Rockies to open-pit mines, but reversed course last year after a huge backlash from ranchers and other Albertans concerned about the environmental impact.

“It seems the government has listened to the majority of Albertans who care about our mountains and headwaters and do not want to see these lands degraded,” said Devon Earl, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association.

Friday’s decision comes in response to a report from Alberta’s independent Coal Policy Committee, which conducted a six-month review of the province’s coal policies and collected survey responses from more than 25 000 Albertans.

“We have heard the concerns of Albertans loud and clear and will work to improve public trust in how projects are reviewed…and how cumulative impacts are managed,” Savage told a news conference.

“Modernizing Alberta’s management of coal resources is a complex undertaking and must be done with care.”

Existing mines are not impacted and four advanced coal projects will be allowed to proceed through the regulatory process, although the government said there was no guarantee they will be approved.

One of these, Benga Mining‘s Grassy Mountain project, has already been rejected by the Canadian federal government but not yet cancelled by the company, which is a unit of Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting.