Four months after the provincial government announced it was doing an about-face on impending coal policy changes, a private coal company said it had filed a lawsuit over the effects of the reversal.

Cabin Ridge Holdings Ltd. and Cabin Ridge Project Ltd. announced on June 30 that legal action had been taken against the government.

In a statement, the companies say the province has “substantially and unreasonably” interfered with the private company’s development rights and deprived it of “any reasonable use” of its mineral rights.

“The Cabin Ridge companies have invested significantly to acquire their freehold mineral rights and project assets with the goal of developing a world-class metallurgy. [steelmaking] coal project,” the statement read.

The statement filed by the companies on June 27 says they are seeking damages in the amount of $3.441 billion due to the “net present value loss” of the property.

Alternatively, according to the claim, the companies are seeking restitution in the amount of $56 million plus future and contingent repair costs.

The allegations have not been tested in court.

READ | The statement filed by the companies behind the Cabin Ridge project:

The Cabin Ridge Project is located approximately 50 kilometers north of Coleman, Alberta, a community of just over 1,400 people in southwestern Alberta.

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

The provincial government has been hit with a barrage of criticism and legal challenges from landowners, municipalities and First Nations after declaring in May 2020 that, without public consultation, it would roll back the coal policy of the Alberta of 1976 which restricted coal development on the eastern slopes.

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage announces expanded restrictions on coal mining on Alberta’s Eastern Slopes in Calgary on March 4. (Todd Korol/The Canadian Press)

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

The companies say the government’s change in position represented a “de facto expropriation” of its freehold mining property and prevented it from further developing its project.

He also says the move deprived the companies of his “substantial investments” in Alberta.

Without the inversion, the companies say the proposed mine would create about 500 direct jobs during operation and about $2 billion in taxes and other revenue for the federal and provincial governments.

The conservation program manager of the Society for Nature and Parks of Canada (CPAWS) calls these claims “rather dubious”.

“Recent research has shown that employment projections and revenue projections for coal projects in Canada are often grossly overestimated,” said Becky Best-Bertwistle.

“I’m really disappointed that Cabin Ridge can’t respect the fact that Albertans have said no to any new coal development on the eastern slopes.”

There was no response within press deadlines to CBC’s inquiries to Cabin Ridge Holdings Ltd. and Cabin Ridge Project Ltd. for additional comments.

A spokeswoman for Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage declined to comment, saying the department could not comment on cases in court.