The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado by WildEarth Guardians alleges the Department of Interior approvals were illegal because no public notice was given.
The lawsuit contends that coal mining pollutes the air, water and land, and that under federal environmental law the public should have been given a chance to weigh in before mining plans were approved in four states.
The approvals were given between 2007 and 2012.
The Department of Interior did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"This first and foremost is a transparency case, but hopefully we can get some review of the environmental impact as well," said WildEarth Guardians' Jeremy Nichols.
Nichols said his group will seek a court-ordered stay on mining if a judge agrees
The mines named in the lawsuit are the San Juan mine in New Mexico; Colowyo and Trapper mines in Colorado; Black Thunder, Cordero Rojo and School Creek mines in Wyoming and Spring Creek mine in Montana.
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