The 10 biggest foreign-owned mines in Brazil

Many of Brazil’s biggest mines are foreign owned and while recent years have seen changes in royalty and tax laws, both politicians and the public have demanded more indigenous ownership. Mining-technology.com profiles the ten biggest 100% foreign-owned mines in Brazil based on estimated value of the proven and probable reserves as of September 2014.


Minas-Rio iron ore mine

Minas-Rio iron ore mine - $56.43bn

Minas-Rio, one of the ten biggest iron ore mines in the world, located in the state of Minas Gerais in south-eastern Brazil, is 100% owned by the UK-based mining multinational Anglo American through its subsidiary Iron Ore Brazil. Anglo received operating permit for the Minas-Rio iron ore mine and processing plant from Brazil's federal environment protection agency Ibama in September 2014.

The Minas-Rio open-pit mine was estimated to hold 1.38 billion tonnes of probable iron ore reserves grading 38.8% Fe as of December 2013. The amount of saleable products contained in the mine was estimated to be 686 million tonnes (Mt) grading 67.5% Fe. Scheduled for commissioning by the end of 2014, Minas-Rio is anticipated to produce up to 29.8Mt per annum (mtpa) of iron ore during its initial mine life of 28 years.

Anglo American bought the iron ore project from Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista for about $5.5bn in 2007-'08. Post acquisition, the UK miner is reported to have invested $8.8bn in the integrated mining project which involved the development of an open-pit mine, a beneficiation plant, a 525km long slurry pipeline, and the Port of Açu, located in Rio de Janeiro, in which Anglo has 49% stake.

Santa Rita nickel mine - $13.14bn

Wholly owned by Australia-based Mirabela Nickel, the Santa Rita nickel sulphide mine located 260km southwest of Salvador in the Brazilian state Bahia was estimated to hold 140.2Mt of proven and probable ore reserves, (at an average grade of 0.52% Ni) containing over 729,000t of nickel, as of December 2013.

The Santa Rita Nickel deposit was discovered by Mirabela in 2004 and the open-pit mine was brought into commercial production in 2010. A total of 19.1Mt of ore (at an average nickel grade of 0.48%) was mined from the deposit by the end of 2013. The extracted ore is processed at a nickel sulphide concentration plant located near the mine site.

Nickel concentrate produced from the Santa Rita operation is delivered to Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta (Norilsk) and Votorantim Metais Niquel (Votorantim) under separate off-take agreements. The remaining mining life at Santa Rita is estimated to be 20 years.

Chapadão (Ouvidor) phosphate mine - $13.1bn

Anglo American's 100% owned Chapadão phosphate mine near Ouvidor in the Goias state of Brazil was estimated to contain 118.1Mt of proven and probable ore reserves grading 12.8% phosphate as of December 2013. The Chapadão open-pit mine is believed to contain about 15% of Brazil's known phosphate mineral resources and has a mine life of 20 years.

Ouvidor phosphate mine produces approximately 5.8Mt of high grade phosphate ore (on a dry basis) per year, which is treated at a nearby beneficiation facility that is capable of producing 1.4Mtpa of phosphate concentrate.

The same concentrate is used at two Anglo American-operated chemical processing complexes: one at Catalão in the state of Goiás, and the other at Cubatão in the state of São Paulo, to produce a wide variety of products including fertilisers for the Brazilian Agricultural sector. The company's fertiliser production in 2013 increased by six percent to 1.19Mt.

NRI Energy Technology