Australia’s government has given its approval on Thursday for one of the world’s biggest coal mines to be built by India’s Adani Mining in Queensland despite environmentalists’ fears that the project threatens the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system.

The 16.5 billion AUD (US$12.1 billion) Queensland state project was approved subject to “36 of the strictest conditions in Australian history”, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said.

In August, a court temporarily blocked the project because of environmental concerns.

But the approval has now been granted subject to “36 of the strictest conditions in Australian history” environment minister Greg Hunt said.

Critics say the decision was “grossly irresponsible”.

“The rigorous conditions will protect threatened species and provide long-term benefits for the environment through the development of an offset package,” Hunt said in a statement.

“These measures must be approved by myself before mining can start,” he added, noting that he had the power to suspend or revoke the approval and impose penalties if there was a breach of conditions.

But consevationists fear that the project pose threat to Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia and its vulnerable species.

Despite the conditions, the Mackay Conservation Group – which brought the legal challenge to the Federal Court – said the approval “risks threatened species, precious groundwater, the global climate and taxpayers’ money”.

“Minister Hunt has again failed the people of Australia by ignoring new evidence on the devastating impacts of what would be Australia’s largest coal mine,” the group’s co-ordinator Ellen Roberts said.

Critics have also warned that the mine — which they said could be as large as 28,000 hectares (69,000 acres) — would contribute to global warming, while supporters argue it would create thousands of jobs and boost regional infrastructure.

Adani Enterprises soars after Australia clears coal mine and rail project

Adani, which is in the fifth year of development and approvals for the huge project, welcomed the decision and the “rigorous and painstaking conditions”.

Adani Enterprises rose 14.61% to Rs 97.25 at 14:25 IST on BSE after Australia’s environment ministry reissued environment-related clearance to Carmichael mega coal mine and rail project to be executed by the company’s subsidiary. Meanwhile, the BSE Sensex was up 199.81 points, or 0.75%, to 26,979.47.

The Carmichael coal, railway and port project includes building Australia’s largest thermal coal mine in the north Galilee Basin approximately 160 km north-west of Clermont in Central Queensland, linked by a new 388 km standard gauge rail line to a new terminal at Abbot Point Port near Bowen.

Over its 60 year life this major infrastructure will not only support Adani’s operations, but the 388 kilometre rail line and port facilities have the potential to assist the development of other proposed mines in the Galilee Basin. The Carmichael mine would be among the largest coal mines in the world.

Adani added that the mine would create 10,000 jobs and generate Aus$22 billion in taxes and royalties, although the figures have been disputed by critics, who argue that plunging coal prices were making the development financially unviable.

At the same time, British bank Standard Chartered and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia have withdrawn as financial advisers, while major European and US banks have refused to fund the project due to environmental concerns.