Following our report in November, on December 2, 2010, Bill 26 received Royal Assent and came into force as the Mines and Minerals (Coalbed Methane) Amendment Act, 2010, S.A. 2010 c.20. The Act declares coalbed methane “to be and at all times to have been natural gas” for both Crown and freehold minerals. Despite this declaration, the Act expressly honours existing agreements that specifically grant coalbed methane to the coal owner and protects coal owners or their lessees, surface owners and the provincial government from being sued for damages or compensation from the extraction, production or removal of coalbed methane prior to the Act coming into force.
The Act amends the Mines and Minerals Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. M-17, which previously only declared coalbed methane to be natural gas on Crown land, by clarifying the nature of ownership of coalbed methane on freehold lands. The enactment is intended to provide clarity regarding coalbed methane ownership, the lack of which the Alberta government saw as a potential barrier to development of the resource in the province.