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Sinop Hydroelectric Dam, Mato Grosso, Brazil

The recently opened Sinop Dam has revealed the inadequacies of Brazil’s environmental licensing system and caused massive fish die-off and methane emissions. Operations are currently interrupted, while affected communities still struggle for compensation.


Sinop hydroelectric dam (UHE Sinop) is located on the Teles Pires River, a tributary to the Tapajós River that passes the Amazon states of Mato Grosso and Pará, about 70 kilometers north of the city of Sinop. The dam with a capacity of 402 MW is part of a series of controversial dams along the Teles Pires river and in the Tapajós basin (see also related cases in the EJAtlas) and became opened in 2019. It should supply half of the population of Mato Grosso with electricity (about 1.6 million people). 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Sinop Hydroelectric Dam, Mato Grosso, Brazil
State or province:Mato Grosso
Location of conflict:Sinop / Itaúba / Cláudia / Sorriso / Ipiranga do Norte (municipalities of the reservoir)
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Water access rights and entitlements
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

UHE Sinop is operated by Sinop Energia, also known as Companhia Energética de Sinop (CES). The consortium is controlled by Electricité de France (EDF), whose subsidiary EDF Norte Fluminense holds 51 percent of the stakes. The rest is held by Centrais Elétricas do Norte do Brasil S.A. (Eletronorte) and Companhia Hidro Elétrica do São Francisco S.A. (Chesf), which are both linked to the state-controlled power holding Eletrobrás. Sinop Energia has the operating concession for 35 years. The dam has a capacity of producing 401.9 MW of electricity and has created a reservoir of 337 square kilometers. The project costs were about $R 3 billion ($US 593 million) [1][3][4].

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Project area:33,700 ha
Level of Investment:USD 593,000,000.00 [4]
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:several thousand
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Companhia Energética Sinop S.A. ((CES)) from Brazil - Concessionary of UHE Sinop
Electricité de France (EDF) from France
Centrais Elétricas do Norte do Brasil S.A. – Eletronorte (Eletronorte) from Brazil
Companhia Hidro Elétrica do São Francisco S.A. (CHESF) from Brazil
EDF Norte Fluminense from Brazil - Holds 51 percent of the dam concessionary Sinop Energia
Relevant government actors:Government of Mato Grosso
Federal Public Ministry (MPF)
Public Ministry of the State of Mato Grosso (MPMT)
Mato Grosso Environment Secretariat (SEMA)
Instituto da Reforma Agrária (Incra)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Comissão dos Atingidos da Gleba Mercedes

Members of Fórum Teles Pires Vivo (the mobilization has been both local and regional):
• Colônia dos Pescadores – Sinop
• Comunidades Eclesiais de Base
• Fórum Mato-grossense de Meio-ambiente (Formad)
• Movimento de Mulheres Camponesas
• OAB – Sinop
• Pastoral da Juventude Rural
• Povo indígena Apiaká
• Povo indígena Bakairí
• Povo indígena Enawene Nawe
• Povo indígena Irantxe
• Povo indígena Kaiabí
• Povo indígena Karajá
• Povo indígena Munduruku
• Povo indígena Panará
• Povo indígena Rikbaktsa
• Povo indígena Yudja
• Retireiros do Araguaia
• Secretaria Regional Pantanal do ANDES SN
• Sindicato de Trabalhadores e Trabalhadoras Rurais (STTR) – Sinop, Lucas do Rio Verde e Barão de Melgaço

Observatório de Multinacionais na América Latina (OMAL)
International Rivers
Planète Amazon
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Trade unions
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts, Desertification/Drought, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Other Environmental impactsDeath of fish at massive scale
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Accidents
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (undecided)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Under negotiation
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The environmental impact caused by Sinop Dam is massive and particularly negatively affects fishers, farmers, and indigenous communities living from the river or in areas flooded by the reservoir. Fish has died in masses, forests became destroyed and flooded, and the resulting reservoir is now a major greenhouse gas emitter. As noted by researcher Philip Fearnside, the case reveals the inadequacies of Brazil’s environmental licensing system and the undermining and non-enforcement of respective legislation.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[13] De Faria, F., Jaramillo, P., Sawakuchi, H., Richey, J., & Barros, N. (2015): Estimating greenhouse gas emissions from future Amazonian hydroelectric reservoirs. Environmental Research Letters 10(12): art. 124019.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] Fearnside, P. (2019): Brazil’s Sinop Dam flouts environmental legislation (Commentary). Mongabay, 01.03.2019. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[4] Dourado, B. (2018): Danos ambientais causados por obra de usina hidrelétrica em Sinop (MT) são investigados. Globo G1, 14.12.2018. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[8] Alves, A. (2013): Integrantes do MST bloqueiam BR-163 em protesto contra construção de usina. Olhar Direito, 18.06.2013. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[2] Petitjean, O. (2014): Amazonian dams: EDF and GDF Suez are “studying” indigenous lands with the support of the army. Multinational Observatory, 25.04.2014. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[3] Gámez, L. (2020): O discurso ambientalista do governo francês não evita a destruição. Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil, 24.04.2020. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[10] Freitas, C. (2019): A hidrelétrica controlada pelos governos francês e brasileiro acusada de matar 80 mil peixes na Amazônia. BBC Brasil, 20.09.2019. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[16] Santiago, W. (2019): Vídeo de acidente em hidrelétrica de cidade em MT é atribuído a tragédia em Brumadinho. Olhar Direito, 28.01.2019.
[click to view]

[5] MAB (2015): MAB volta a protestar em Sinop/MT. 15.06.2015. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[11] Rede Brasil Atual (2019): Cidades do Mato Grosso denunciam toneladas de peixes mortos por hidrelétrica. 02.10.2019. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[6] CIMI (2010): Fórum Teles Pires Vivo faz primeira marcha contra UHE Sinop. 13.11.2010. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[9] de Souza, H. (2015): Atingidos pela usina de Sinop protestam em frente ao MPF e dão “ultimato” à concessionária. Combate Racismo Ambiental, 16.05.2015. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[7] Osava, M. (2017): Hydropower Dams Invade Brazil’s Agricultural Economy. IPS News, 07.10.2017. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[14] Só Notícias (2020): SEMA constata morte de 6 toneladas de peixes entre Itaúba-Sinop e multa usina em R$ 12 milhões. 19.03.2020.
[click to view]

[12] Mato Grosso Mais (2020): Nova mortandade de peixes é constatada no rio Teles Pires. 16.03.2020. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[18] Monteiro, T. (2010): Complexo hidrelétrico Teles Pires: seis usinas e um rio, artigo de Telma Monteiro. Ecodebate, 04.11.2010. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[14] Só Notícias (2020): SEMA constata morte de 6 toneladas de peixes entre Itaúba-Sinop e multa usina em R$ 12 milhões. 19.03.2020. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[17] Gámez, L., Mota, G. (2019): Juruena Resiste: Luta histórica por um rio. Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil, 25.06.2019. (Online, last accessed: 15.05.2020)
[click to view]

[15] Murba, D. (2020): Pescadores protestam contra mortandade de peixes no Teles Pires em Sinop e querem reposição. Só Notícias, 03.09.2020. (Online, last accessed: 10.09.2020)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Max Stoisser
Last update16/09/2020
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