Australia is starting a group complaint lawsuit Tuesday against a planned expansion of Whitehaven Coal's Vickery coal mine in New South Wales.
The first-ever lawsuit, filed by a group of eight teenagers, will be tried in Federal Court of Melbourne and is expected to last five days, but a decision can only be made in a few months.
Schoolchildren argue that Australian Environment Minister Susan Leigh has a responsibility to protect them from climate change, and the expansion of the coal mine will contribute to climate change and jeopardize their future.
The Vickery coal mine plans to produce mainly metallurgical coal for steelmaking, as well as higher quality thermal coal, the project is currently awaiting final approval from the minister.
Whitehaven Coal estimates the new mine will create 450 permanent jobs and a net economic benefit of AU $ 1.2 billion (US $ 930 million).
“Our position with regard to litigation ... is that the lawsuit is unfounded and should be dismissed,” said Paul Flynn, Managing Director and CEO of Whitehaven Coal in a statement.
Coal is Australia's second most exported resource, according to government figures, with revenues estimated at A $ 37 billion last fiscal year.
Climate change is causing controversy in Australia, one of the world's largest sources of per capita carbon emissions. The country's conservative government has won consecutive elections on a platform supporting Australia's dominant fossil fuel sectors.