Economics

What Are The Major Natural Resources Of Brazil?

Brazil is endowed with rich natural resources.

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Officially known as the Federative Republic of Brazil, Brazil is a nation that is located in both South and Latin America. The country has an approximate area of a 3.2 million square miles, which makes it the fifth largest nation in the world by size. Future projections into 2019 show that the country will have a population of around 210,147,125 people. Currently, the population is a little over 208 million people with most of the population residing in Sao Paulo. The country is home to a number of natural resources including the water from the massive Amazon River basin and all it contains, minerals (such as gold and platinum), and other resources. By definition, a natural resource is one that exists without any form of input or alteration by humankind.

Mining

Mining in Brazil focuses on a number of minerals including gold, bauxite, diamonds, platinum, iron, tin, coal, and several other minerals. Historically, the country has had both a diamond and a gold rush. The gold rush began in the 1960s after gold was discovered in the modern-day town of Belo Horizonte. The diamond rush came in 1729 after it was discovered that the city had diamonds as well. The gold from Brazil was so substantial that the country alone was able to supply half of the global demand for gold, which was why almost 400,000 people from Portugal migrated to Brazil in the 18th century. In addition to the Portuguese, the country also shipped in more than 500,000 enslaved people from Africa to work in the mines.

The discovery of gold brought about one of the world’s longest gold rushes. That gold rush has played a huge role in the development of the social and economic aspect of present-day Brazil and the whole of South America. Aside from the economic aspects of the country, the migration of people from different countries played a huge part in shaping the cultural and social aspects of present-day Brazil.

Unfortunately, the mining of gold and other minerals has had a devastating impact on the ecosystem. In recent times, the effects of mining are even worse as newer technology has come up with more efficient and faster ways of mining. Consequently, the effect on the ecosystem has almost tripled. Between 2001 and 2013, South America has lost tropical forests with a size of between 145 square miles and 500 square miles. In addition, the pollution and destruction can happen in places that are far from the mining sites. For example, mercury used to purify gold has been detected further downstream from the purifying sites along the Amazon River basin.

On the other side, however, the economic crisis in the world over the past two decades saw to it that the price of gold almost tripled. In 2001, an ounce of gold cost $271 while it stood at a whopping $1,023 in 2008. Experts predict that the price is set to go even higher due to things like terrorist attacks and signs of recession. However, over the past years, gold mining has gone down as gold is less popular in recent times due to several things such as the rise of cryptocurrencies.

Hydropower

In the whole of South America, Brazil has the largest installed capacity of hydroelectric power production. As of 2017, the installed capacity stood at a massive 100,273 MW. The hydroelectric power sector that accounts for about 64% of Brazil’s energy needs. In total, Brazil has more than 200 hydroelectric power stations that are serviced by plenty of water bodies in the country. Some of the hydroelectric power plants in the country include the likes of the Boa Esperança Hydroelectric Power Plant, the Dona Francisca Hydroelectric Plant, the Barra Grande Hydroelectric Power Plant, and others.

However, despite being the major source of electricity in the country, the sector has had several financial challenges. These struggles are mainly because of the corruption and bureaucracy involved with state-owned institutions. Despite the struggles, the country is still in the process of undertaking major power projects to boost electricity production. An example of such a major project is the Belo Monte project that is under construction in the northern region of Brazil. When that project is completed, it will be the world’s third largest hydroelectric power production plant. Other projects are also underway in order to tap into the vast water resources that the country has, especially since older assets are slowing down.

Petroleum

Petroleum is a major natural resource from the country as evidenced by the fact that it is the 12th largest producer of oil in the world. Previously, until 1997, the government had a monopoly in the sector although there are more than 50 firms involved in the sector today. The largest oil producing company is the multinational Petrobras, which has a production of at least 2 million barrels of oils daily.

In 2006, the country’s oil reserves stood at a whopping 11.2 billion barrels, which was second only to Venezuela among South American countries. Most of these reserves are located in places like Santos and Campos. In 2007, Petrobras reported that the Tupi oil field in the Santos Basin might have oil reserves of between five and eight million barrels. If the figures are correct, then the country is going to become one of the leading global producers of oil.

Interestingly, the country exports oil but it also imports oil. The need for importation arises from the fact that the country’s infrastructure for oil refining is outdated. Most of the refineries go as far back as the 1960s, which makes them unsuitable for handling the heavy nature of the oil mined in Brazil. The heavy oil had not yet been discovered when the plants were being set up.

In addition, the country has some substantial reserves of natural gas. Estimates from 2005 place the reserves at around 8,811,194.63 US gallons. Other estimates place the figure closer to fifteen times of the current quantity. Just like oil, the major reserves are located in Santos and Campos basins. Other reserves are located at Foz do Amazonas, Pernambuco e Paraíba, and others. Petrobras is also the main company in the natural gas sector.

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