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Brazil - Mining


Since the early colonial period, expectations have loomed large about mineral riches hidden in Brazil's vast territory. However, the full extent of the country's mineral wealth is still unknown. Various efforts have been made to survey the country, one of which uncovered the Greater Carajás mineral province in the eastern Amazon (see fig. 9). Yet, at the beginning of the 1990s only 10 percent of the country's subsoil was known in sufficient detail. Correspondingly, the share of mining in GDP has increased but remains small; in 1950 it was only 0.4 percent, rising to 0.8 percent in 1970, to 1.0 percent in 1980, and to 2.5 percent in 1986, but declining to 1.5 percent in 1990.

The value of mineral production expanded from US$5.4 billion in 1980 to US$13.0 billion in 1990. However, only ten minerals--crude oil, iron, gold, calcium ore, natural gas, bauxite, phosphate, granite, cassiterite, and zinc--accounted for 85.5 percent of this total; crude oil alone accounted for 37.6 percent of the total, and both iron ore and gold accounted for 11.4 percent each. Apparently, the exploration of several other mineral substances has great potential, but such efforts have yet to be realized.

Advances in the early 1990s included the Greater Carajás project, which involves the production and export of iron ore, products of the bauxite-aluminum complex, and manganese, among other minerals. Overall, exports of mineral products expanded substantially, and there was a considerable import substitution of mineral inputs. In 1974 the trade balance of the mineral sector (primary, semiprocessed, and manufactured minerals) was a negative US$2.5 billion, and the deficit increased, reaching US$10.7 billion in 1980. However, by 1985 the deficit had declined to US$0.6 billion and thereafter the trade balance showed growing surpluses (US$1.1 billion in 1988, US$1.3 billion in 1989, and US$1.6 billion in 1990). This reversal was caused by an expansion of exports, especially of iron ore, products of the bauxite-aluminum complex, and manganese, and to a significant extent by reductions in crude oil imports.

Brazil's mineral policy has been marked strongly by national security considerations. Until the early 1990s, foreign capital was mostly barred from the more attractive portions of the sector. Petroleum has been a state monopoly. Another state enterprise, the giant Rio Dôce Valley Company, Inc. (Companhia Vale do Rio Dôce--CVRD), has a large share of the iron ore deposits, and it has played an important role in the development of the bauxite-aluminum complex and of other minerals. CVRD is also a major railroad and shipping operator, by far Brazil's largest exporter, and its largest generator of foreign currency. In late 1994, foreign investment funds held about 10 percent of CVRD's stock. In 1995 there were still legal obstacles to foreign participation in Brazil's mineral sector.

Data as of April 1997




About Brazil
Table A. Selected Acronyms and Abbreviations
Table B. Chronology of Important Events
Transportation and Communications
Government and Politics
National Security

Historical Setting

The Society and Its Environment

The Economy

Historical Background and Economic Growth

- The Colonial Period
The Sugar Cycle, 1540-1640
The Eighteenth-Century Gold Rush

- The Economy at Independence, 1822
- The Coffee Economy, 1840-1930
- A Period of Sweeping Change, 1930-45
- Import-Substitution Industrialization, 1945-64
- Stagnation and Spectacular Growth, 1962-80
Stagnation, 1962-67
Spectacular Growth, 1968-73

Growth with Debt, 1974-80

- Stagnation, Inflation, and Crisis, 1981-94
The 1981-84 Period
The 1985-89 Period

The 1990-94 Period

The Labor Force and Income Levels
- Employment and Earnings


- Inequality and Poverty
Structure of Production
- Agriculture
- Livestock
- Fishing
- Industry
- Mining
- Energy
Electric Power
Natural Gas
Nuclear Power

- The Services Sector

Inland Waterways
Merchant Marine

Exchange-Rate and Balance of Payments Policies
- Exchange Rates and Foreign Trade
- Capital Flows and the External Debt
Fiscal and Monetary Policy, the Public Sector, and Inflation
- Fiscal Trends in the 1980s
- Pressures on Public-Sector Expenditures in the 1980s
- Fiscal Deficits and Inflation
Brazil's Real Plan
Trade Policies
Trade Patterns and Regional Economic Integration
Economic Outlook

Government and Politics

National Security

Science and Technology

Brazil Travel and Tourism
Belo Horizonte
- Fernando de Noronha
- Foz do Iguaçu
- Porto Alegre
- Rio de Janeiro
- Salvador Bahia
- São Paulo

Brazil General Information Center

Bahia Resort Hotels
Brazilian Consulate
Brazilian Currency
Carnival of Brazil
Dictionary -Transltation
Flights to Brazil
Information About Brazil
Map of Brazil
Travel to Brazil
Visa to Brazil


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