The Federal Republic of Brazil is the largest country in Latin America both by land area and population. It has seen considerable growth throughout the 1990s and 2000s. A member of the BRICS countries Brazil is considered a developed emerging economy, ranking in the top 10 economies by GDP.
Mining is a large part of the country’s economy, it is estimated that Brazil has 22 trillion US dollars of natural resources that have yet to be realised. As a country with significant exposure to the mining sector, a competent and expansive legal framework regulates mining in Brazil. This has helped attract foreign investment, and the majority of the world’s largest mining companies hold significant assets in the country.
Brazil holds a prolific variety of gems within its borders, various Beryls (Aquamarine, Emerald, Morganite), Chrysoberyls (including Alexandrite), Tourmalines (Paraiba and Rubellite amongst others) and Diamonds (coloured and white) are amongst the gemstones commercially mined.
Most gemstone mining activity is centred around the state of Minas Gerais, the third largest state in Brazil. In the 1690s the Brazilian gold rush centred around this area, bringing significant prospecting to the area. The focus remained on gold and diamond deposits until the arrival of German settlers from Idar Oberstein in the 1820s kick-started the development of the gem market.
Beryls of the Emerald and Aquamarine variety were mined and polished in commercial quantities, but the first Emerald deposit of size in Minas Gerais did not emerge until the early 20th century. Later deposits at Itabira in 1977 and Nova Era in 1988 helped to propel Brazil to a top a three producer worldwide emerald producer. The Belmont mine has emerged as the largest enterprise in the Brazilian emerald market with over 40 years of production, they retain 50% of the production and cut and polish the gemstones locally ‘in house.