When Brazilian lands were discovered, mercantile practices prevailed all over Europe. The Portuguese arrived in Brazil hoping to extract metals such as golden, silver and copper. Nevertheless, they did not found any kind of metal, not even iron, at first. The few blacksmiths who came to Brazil produced instruments to be used in tillage with iron imported from Europe.

In 1554, José de Anchieta, a Jesuit priest, informed, in a report submitted to the king of Portugal, the existence of silver and iron ore in Captaincy of São Vicente countryside (current State of São Paulo).

The first person who worked on the reduction of this iron ore was Afonso Sardinha. In 1587, he discovered magnetite in the current region of Sorocaba, countryside of the State of São Paulo, and started to produce iron from the reduction of this ore. It is the first iron factory known in Brazil.

The forges built by Sardinha operated until his death, in 1616. After that, Brazilian steel industry underwent a stagnation period until next century.

You may learn more about the history of the first steel-maker company in Brazil, started by Afonso Sardinha and which is currently open to visitation within National Forest of Ipanema, by clicking here.


The Discovery of Golden in the current State of Minas Gerais set off a new incentive to steel industry. Steelworks were opened for construction of iron implements used in mining works.

However, the same mercantile practices driving the discovery of metals in our lands caused the repression of the development of Brazilian steel industry. The colony should be exploited to the fullest and only trade Golden and agricultural products. Portugal even prohibited the construction of new steel-maker companies and order that the existing companies were destructed.

This situation changed with the rise of Dom John VI to the throne of Portugal. In 1795, the construction of new steel-maker companies was authorized. In 1808, the royal family of Portugal escaped to Rio de Janeiro, fearing the advance of Napoleonic troops in Portuguese territory. Many steel-maker companies were built since then.

In 1815, it was built a plant in Morro do Pilar, Minas Gerais. In 1818, Ipanema factory, near Sorocaba, started to produce forged iron. Other industries were opened in Congonhas do Campo, Caeté and São Miguel de Piracicaba, all of them in Minas Gerais. Before the opening of local factories, the iron was exclusively imported from European countries, particularly Sweden, Germany and Spain.

After a promising beginning in XIX century, there was a decline in iron production. The competition of products imported from England (which were benefited with the decrease of import taxes) was uneven and prevented the development of Brazilian steel industry. Besides, there was a shortage of manpower, since most of the workers were employed in sugarcane cultivations and, later in coffee cultivations.

Nevertheless, an important milestone to the further progress of Brazilian steel industry occurs in this period: the establishment of School of Mines in Ouro Preto, in 1876, aiming at the education of mining engineers, metallurgists and geologists.

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