Brazilian Court revokes environmental license of Guaíba coal mine


A federal court in Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, on Wednesday 9 February 2022, revoked the environmental licensing process of the Guaíba coal mine, planned to be built in the Porto Alegre Region. The decision is a victory of the Brazilian socio-environmental movement that fought against the project. Two reasons guided the court’s decision: The absence of a section in the mine’s Environmental Impact Study regarding the Indigenous peoples, and the non-compliance by coal company Copelmi in promoting a public, prior, and informed hearing with the Indigenous communities living under direct or indirect influence of the project.

The coal mine would occupy a 45 km² area in two cities, Eldorado do Sul and Charqueadas, in the Porto Alegre Region. Experts have been warning for three years that more than 4.3 million people living in the region would suffer from impacts such as water contamination and air pollution caused by the coal mine.

The licensing process held by the state’s Foundation for Environmental Protection (FEPAM) already harmed the communities by worsening their historical invisibility. Coal company Copelmi refused to dialogue with the M’bya Guarani Indigenous people living near the project’s area, even though they should be consulted, according to international treaties to which Brazil is a signatory, including the Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

In the face of the Copelmi’s non-compliance, in October 2019, the Poty Guarani Indigenous Association filed a lawsuit in a federal court demanding to revoke the Guaíba licensing, which resulted in the recent decision. The arguments of the Indigenous authors, technically and legally supported by, were entirely accepted by the court.

The mobilization of activists, Indigenous leaders, and community organizations throughout the process has been key to keep the lawsuit in evidence, stop the project, and raise support for the revocation. The activists filled public hearings, held protests in Porto Alegre symbolic locations, and took their arguments to the press and social media.

In September 2021, Rio Grande do Sul state government withdrew from the project,  which is one of the main victories resulting from the people’s pressure.

The mobilization also strengthened the organizing skills of Indigenous communities, who developed processes such as their Hearing Procotol to the M’bya Guarani of Rio Grande do Sul, released in December 2021. The document is the first guidance for governments and companies on how the M’bya Guarani Indigenous people living in the state should be consulted when administrative and legislative measures affect their livelihoods.

Chief Santiago, Indigenous leader, and president of the Poty Guarani Indigenous Association, said,“The Justice’s decision gives us strength and shows that we can keep rising against those who destroy the environment. Our movement can prove itself to be very powerful.”

Renan Andrade, campaign coordinator at, added,“The entire world is rapidly moving away from coal’s social and environmental disasters. The revoking of Guaíba’s license represents a historic victory for the Indigenous peoples, on behalf of all humanity, and a crucial step for Brazilian society towards a fair energy transition.”

Ilan Zugman, Latin America managing director at, said, “In several countries, such as Turkey, England, and Ecuador, we have recently seen victories of vulnerable communities winning against pollution and the climate crisis caused by coal, oil, and gas. The Guaíba’s license revoking puts Brazil on this list, and shows that despite the federal government’s climate denial harming the environment, we can make progress.”