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The Gold Rush in Brazil

November 10, 2023
The famous gold trail in Paraty

Not only since today we know Brazil as a country rich in minerals. Gold is one of them, after all, it was already being extracted from Brazil at the time of the Portuguese colonization.

A gold rush, or more rarely gold fever, is a time of increased immigration to an area where there are either larger quantities of gold or at least rumors of such deposits. The gold rush of the 19th century caused many thousands of workers around the world to leave their jobs, such as in an Industrial Revolution factory, and move - sometimes with their families - to a gold area to seek their fortune. This led to both more wealth and more pollution and crime.

Find out how the gold rush impact(ed)s Brazil and where gold seekers travel(ed) to in Brazil in this article!

Gold Rush in the world

The first known gold rush in history was triggered by extensive discoveries in Brazil in 1693.

There were three major gold rushes in North America. The first documented gold rush in the U.S. territory took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1799. The largest was the California Gold Rush. It also includes the Colorado Gold Rush and the Klondike River Gold Rush in Canada, and the Yukon River Gold Rush in Canada. Significant gold discoveries also occurred in Virginia City, Montana, in 1863, Comstock Lode, Nevada, in 1859, and Oregon in 1850.

There were several gold rushes in Australia, the first of which, triggered by the discovery of a 40-kilo gold nugget, created an immigration movement. This gold rush increased the Australian population tenfold within a decade and triggered social changes that transformed Australia from a convict colony into a civilized state. In May 1861, gold was discovered in the Otago region by Gabriel Read, who had previously prospected in the goldfields of California and Australia. Read's discovery in Gabriel's Gully, named after him, came to prominence at a time when well-financed mining companies in Australia were displacing independent prospectors or replacing them with cheaper Chinese labor. In the first three years, more than 60,000 kilos of gold were mined there. Later, Chinese took over the abandoned sites. These immigrants also bought out the local gold mines. Many blacks and poor whites mined the gold for the mine owners. Few "real" gold miners came. During most of the 18th century, 10 to 15 tons of gold per year were brought to Europe.

By 1900, the Transvaal Republic was the largest gold producer in the world.

Gold Rush in Brazil

The sugar industry was the predominant activity of the colony and the interest of the metropolises was entirely focused on its development. Due to competition from the Caribbean colonies from the middle of the 17th century, the focus turned more to the mining of metals. This was followed by the founding of further colonies, which were increasingly located in the interior of the country.

The first large gold deposits were found in Minas Gerais, Goiás, and Mato Grosso. Gradually, Brazil was found to have some of the largest gold deposits in the world. Most of it is located in the north of Brazil, in the Amazon region. As a result, more and more settlements were established with the main purpose of gold mining in the Amazon.

After a large amount of gold was found in Serra Pelada in 1978, several thousand people were attracted to northern Brazil. The small village of Serra Pelada is located in the immediate vicinity of a 700-meter-high mountain range in the state of Pará. As a result, Brazilian production increased from about 20 tons to over 100 tons per year. This growth was fueled by the strong tendency for the price of gold in the world to rise, reaching over 1,000 US dollars in 1980. In search of fame and fortune, some 90,000 to at times as many as 500,000 gold miners flocked to the region after the first major gold discoveries became known.

After a general decline in gold production, the financial crisis around 2007/08 triggered a new gold rush in Brazil as well, which continues to this day.

Gold in Brazil

The main Brazilian states where gold is found are Pará, Goiás, Mato Grosso, and Minas Gerais, but gold is also found in Bahia, Amapá, Roraima, and Maranhão. For example, since September 2018, 194 kilograms of gold from Roraima have been exported to India. In 2019, gold was the second most exported commodity in Roraima, although there is not a single gold mine registered in the state.

Several other projects in different regions of Brazil are focused on gold extraction. In Rio Grande do Norte, more specifically in Currais Novos, operations started in mid-2020. It is expected to mine 2 million tons of raw ore and produce 1.8 to 2.1 tons per year over the next 12 years. "Eldorado Gold" expects to produce 160,000 ounces annually at a project in Itaituba with an open pit mine.

Gold mining in Brazil generates an average of 14.2 billion reais per year, the equivalent of about 2.8 billion US dollars.

Based on the above projects, it is clear how promising the Brazilian gold mining market is in the coming years. More and more is being invested in mineral exploration, especially in the state of Pará and other states in the Amazon region.

Consequences of the gold rush

The gold rush is not without consequences for the surrounding area. Large mining consortia want to enter the gold mining business on a grand scale. The mercury from the gold prospectors is increasingly polluting the rivers and soils, and large areas of forest are being cleared. Often this displaces or dispossesses the people living there. Several large dam projects go hand in hand with industrial gold mining. After all, if you want to mine a lot of gold, you need electricity and water. In addition, many gold miners operate illegally. There are said to be more than 10,000 illegal gold miners in the territory of the indigenous Yanomami in northern Brazil, for example. The numbers follow an estimate by the Yanomami's largest association "Hutukara".

In addition, contact with gold miners is dangerous for many indigenous people. Between 1986 and 1990, more than 20 percent of the Yanomami population died as a result of a massive invasion by more than 40,000 gold miners and the resulting spread of disease. Many indigenous peoples in Brazil are already struggling with polluted rivers and fish stocks, caused primarily by mercury used in gold mining.

Nevertheless, gold mining is an important factor in the Brazilian economy. With new technological means for gold prospecting, Brazil could once again become the most important trading partner in gold trade. However, a lot of attention must be paid to sustainable mining in the future.

In search of the treasure

The Brazilian gold rush is an important part of Brazilian history and is still relevant today. It has made Brazil a lot richer, but the consequences of gold mining cannot be ignored. In this context, projects are already being implemented for the future to ensure a balance between mining and the protection of nature.

If you are in the Amazon on your Brazil vacation, you may well find yourself in gold mining areas!

Sources: www.amerika21.de, www.kooperation-brasilien.org

Source: Aventura do Brasil