EDMONTON - Doubts are being raised about the Alberta government's decision to restore a policy that protects the Rocky Mountains from coal mining.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage on Monday brought back a 1976 policy that keeps open-pit coal mines out of most of the Rockies and foothills.

University of Calgary resource law professor Nigel Bankes says the ban doesn't apply everywhere, despite Savage's assurances that mountaintop removal mines are prohibited.

That means Benga Mining's proposal for such a mine, now before a review panel, could still go ahead.

Bankes also points out exploration already permitted can still go ahead, so hundreds of drill sites and kilometres of roads could still be built despite return of the policy.

Environmentalist Kevin van Tighem calls bringing back the coal policy a "bait and switch."

He says the energy minister's letter to the Alberta Energy Regulator still allows for the possibility of open-pit mines.