The discovery of gold in the early 18th century in Brazil was met with great enthusiasm by Portugal, which had an economy in disarray following years of war against Spain and the Netherlands. A gold rush quickly ensued, with people from other parts of the colony and Portugal flooding the region in the first half of the 18th century. The large portion of the Brazilian inland where gold was extracted became known as the “General Mines.” This is believed to be the beginning of the stone mining industry in the country.
In the 70’s, before granite was discovered, some Italian immigrants discovered white marble deposits near the city of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, and this became the epicenter of the stone industry. Italians had the knowledge and brought with them techniques, machinery, and craftsmanship. Then came the granite boom of the 90’s. Primarily because quarries were in the vicinity, people were working with marble, and therefore had the experience of mining stone. But most importantly the US market opened up to granite, and Europe started to develop the technology to cut and process stone much faster than the old days (70’s). Gang saws, 20 plus head polishing machines, special ovens to dry the resin, diamond blades, multi wire machines… it all came really quickly, and Brazil became by far the biggest stone country in the world.
In the 90’s Brazil had an economic crisis, but at the end of the crisis, the stone industry rebounded quickly with a vigor. Since the 1990s, Brazil underwent remarkable growth in production and exports of natural stones, with increase in activities throughout the production chain. In addition, main recent advances in quarrying and processing were due to the increase in exports.
Now, there are more than 300 export processing plants in Brazil, as well as hundreds of quarries and blocks being exported to Italy, China, India and Taiwan for processing in those countries. Brazilian production of natural stones totaled 10.5 million tons in 2013. The production covered a large variety of stones, including granites, marbles, block and flagstone, quartzite, slate, soapstone, meta-conglomerates, serpentine, travertine, limestone and others types sold in the domestic and export markets. Quarry production serving the domestic market was estimated at 6.9 million tons, and 3.6 million tons was the estimate for exports.