Rio Doce, Carajas, Amapa, coking coal, New oil fields
Minerals are a vital source of industrial raw materials and provide 10.2 percent of export earnings. Brazil is one of the world’s largest exporters of iron ore, and an important source of gold, tin, and manganese. Iron ore comes from Minas Gerais and more recently from the Serra da Carajas in Para. Minas Gerais is also a major producer of manganese, bauxite, nickel, zinc, gold, diamonds, and semiprecious gemstones. Carajas has gold, nickel, copper, and the metallic element molybdenum. Other significant minerals are tin in Amazonas, manganese in Amapa, and bauxite, an important ore of aluminum, in Para. Estimated reserves of iron ore are over 39 billion tons, and there are also major reserves of manganese, bauxite, copper, and tin. A wide range of nonmetallic minerals are mined, including limestone, dolomite, phosphates, and quartz.
Low-grade coal is produced in Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul, but output has fallen by more than half since 1988. A complex and high-cost process was used in Santa Catarina to produce some coking coal for use in the steel industry; this has been replaced by cheaper imported coal.
Oil was first discovered in the Northeast in 1939, but the country remained heavily dependent on imports until larger fields were discovered off the shore of Rio de Janeiro in 1974. Production, refining, and distribution of petroleum have been largely controlled by a state company, Petrobras, established in 1953. Offshore oil fields provide about 85 percent of production and contain about 80 percent of the known reserves of 10.3 billion barrels. New oil fields were discovered in Rio de Janeiro—the nation’s largest oil producer—and off the shore of Sergipe in 1996. Significant oil and natural gas fields have also been found in the Amazon region.
The Brazilian government has had a strong influence in the mining industry, controlling the production of many of its natural resources. In addition to Petrobras and its subsidiaries, Brazil’s government controls one of the world’s largest iron ore producers and exporters, Vale do Rio Doce, which runs large iron mines in Minas Gerais and a mineral complex in Carajas. Both companies are now part of the government’s privatization program, which is opening the ownership of company stock to private individuals.
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