There is a "strong moral case" to proceed with Adani's $16 billion coal mine, Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg claimed on Sunday.
Echoing former prime minister Tony Abbott's insistence that "coal is good for humanity", Mr Frydenberg said the "most important" result of Australia's largest coal mine is that it would help pull millions of people in India and other countries out of energy poverty.
The Adani-owned Carmichael mine in central Queensland was approved last week by Environment Minister Greg Hunt.
He said the mine would be subject to the "strictest conditions in Australian history" but environment groups say the mine, which will produce up to 60 million tonnes of coal for export a year, will be "a disaster".
Export coal from Carmichael would be shipped from Abbot Point, close to the Great Barrier Reef.
Interviewed on ABC's Insiders program, Mr Frydenberg said two billion people in the world were still burning wood and dung for cooking and that 4.3 million people died early as a direct result.
"That's more people dying through those sort of inefficient forms of energy than from malaria, from tuberculosis and HIV AIDS all combined," he said.
"I think there is a strong moral case here."
He said energy demand would increase by a third by 2040 and 75 per cent of that demand would come from fossil fuels.
But Greens deputy leader Larissa Waters said there was a moral case for helping nations like India develop renewable energy.
"Four out of five people without electricity in India are not connected to an electricity grid so can't access coal-fired power," she said.
"Building electricity grids is slow and expensive and the much cheaper, healthier solution is localised renewable energy. There's a strong moral case for Australia to help develop the renewable energy technology that will safely provide people in developing countries with power.
"Burning coal causes local health impacts, with millions of premature deaths from air pollution a year, and pollutes local water supplies."
Mr Hunt's approval last week cleared a major regulatory hurdle but the mine's viability remains uncertain due to the slumping coal price and issues around financing the project.
National Australia Bank has said it will not fund the mine and other banks are being pressured by green groups to not get involved.
On Sunday, Mr Frydenberg said it was a "commercial operation and needs to stand on its own two feet".
He hinted that the company was unlikely to get access to any cash under the $5 billion northern Australia infrastructure concessional loan kitty.
"This wouldn't be a priority project for us," he said.
Greenpeace campaigner Shani Tager said the mine would be "a complete disaster for the Great Barrier Reef".