Coal mine in Queensland
A coal mine is surrounded by floodwaters in Baralaba, Queensland, in this file photo dated Jan. 2, 2011. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz/Files

Several environmental activists have launched a protest outside the parliament of Queensland state, Australia on Monday, criticizing the government’s approval to grant three mining leases to India's Adani Enterprises Ltd. The conglomerate received a nod from the state government for the estimated 10 billion Australian dollars ($7.7 billion) Carmichael coal project Sunday after years of delays over environmental concerns.

Environmentalists have been fighting against Adani's project, saying it could lead to loss of habitat for indigenous fauna due to port dredging and shipping, as well as climate change caused by using coal from the mine. The approval also coincides with extensive coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef due to climate change.

“This mine means that Pacific islands will be submerged with the amount of carbon emissions produced from it,” nonprofit 350 Pacific’s Lisa Jameson told SBS, a local news network. “Islands like Tokelau, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia will be extremely impacted. This is a huge betrayal.”

On Sunday, the Australian Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Anthony Lynham, approved the grant of three individual mining leases for the Carmichael coal, mine and rail project in the Galilee Basin, which faces two legal challenges from environmental groups.

Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation, one of the leading environmental organizations in the country, is challenging the Queensland’s approval to Adani, the group said Sunday. The case will be heard in May.

“It is grossly irresponsible of the [Queensland] government to issue the paperwork for the Carmichael coal mine, which will create millions of tonnes of climate pollution for many decades to come, when we can see the Great Barrier Reef is already being savaged by climate change,” the foundation’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said in a statement.

Following the state approval, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said over 200 strict conditions would be put forth to protect the environment. She also stressed on the positive impact the project is expected to bring to the local economy.

“Up in Cairns, there are jobs on the reef. Out here, there's a big project which is going to generate jobs and the two can co-exist,” Palaszczuk said, according to BBC.

While Adani said it expected to begin construction of the project in 2017, the issue of raising funds has been a cause of concern after several large banks, including Deutsche Bank and HSBC refused to finance it. Standard Chartered and Commonwealth Bank of Australia pulled out of the project last August.