Discovery of gold and diamond mines in Brazil
The discovery of gold in the early eighteenth century was met with great enthusiasm by Portugal, which had an economy in disarray following years of wars 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 eighteenth century. The large portion of the Brazilian inland where gold was extracted became known as the Minas Gerais (General Mines). Gold mining in this area became the main economic activity of colonial Brazil during the eighteenth century. In Portugal, the gold was mainly used to pay for industrialized goods (textiles, weapons) obtained from countries like England and, especially during the reign of King John V, to build Baroque monuments such as the Convent of Mafra.
Minas Gerais was the gold mining center of Brazil, during the 18th century. Slave labor was generally used for the workforce. The discovery of gold in the area caused a huge influx of European immigrants and the government decided to bring in bureaucrats from Portugal to control operations. They set up numerous bureaucracies, often with conflicting duties and jurisdictions. The officials generally proved unequal to the task of controlling this highly lucrative industry. Following Brazilian independence, the British pursued extensive economic activity in Brazil. In 1830, the Saint John d'El Rey Mining Company, controlled by the British, opened the largest gold mine in Latin America. The British brought in modern management techniques and engineering expertise. Located in Nova Lima, the mine produced ore for 125 years.