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Minas Gerais - Economy and Infrastructure

Minas Gerais is among the most developed States in Brazil.
The economy of the State had a particularly strong influence of historic factors; read more about the History of Minas Gerais.
The State generates about 10% of Brazilian GNP, and responds for about 13% of Brazil´s total exports. Minas has more livestock than any other State, and is the largest producer of dairy products; about half of the Brazilian coffee is grown in Minas; the industry is very diversified.

Agriculture. The oriental part (near Espirito Santo and Rio de Janeiro), which was originally covered by the Atlantic Forest, has the most fertile lands of the State; the most important products are coffee and corn. The area is also used for production of tobacco; in Minas, differently from other States with older tobacco cultures, the production is enhanced by chemical and organic fertilization.
The Triangle Mineiro (western area, between the rivers Grande and Paranaíba) is one of the most important rice producers in Brazil.

Livestock. Milking cattle is more common in the eastern parts, particularly the area closest to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, important consumers of milk and dairy products. Most farms are affiliated to cooperatives; high sanitary standards are enforced; the whole State is free from aftosa fever.
The central and eastern parts, dominated by cerrados, is used mostly to grow cattle.

Industry. The two most important industrial clusters of the State are around the cities of Juiz de Fora and Belo Horizonte.
In the south, near Juiz de Fora, there is a concentration of textile industries, which started to be established in the 19th century.
Belo Horizonte and vicinities (Contagem, Betim, Nova Lima, Pedro Leopoldo, Raposo, Rio Acima, Sabará, Santa Luzia e Vespasiano) have a diversified industrial complex; even though minerals processing still have a large importance, there are impportant industries of vehicles, food products, textile, chemicals and others.
Several steel producers are established all around the State: Mannesmann, Belgo-Mineira, Acesita, Usiminas; there is an oil refinery in Betim, directly connected by pipes to the producing areas off shore the Rio de Janeiro coast; vehicle makers, like Fiat (in Betim) and Mercedes-Benz (in Juiz de Fora) have plants in Minas Gerais.

Extrativism. Minas Gerais is the most important producer of minerals in Brazil.
Vale do Rio Doce is the most important mining company of Brazil (the company was controlled by the Brazilian government until 1996, when it was privatized; even though the State had control, the company has had shares in the stock exchange for a long time; it´s one of the most profitable companies in Brazil).
The company explores several minerals, but the most important ones are iron and manganese. Hematite is the most common iron ore; the hematite of Minas is of high compactation, up to 68%, giving it a higher productivity during the steel producing process. Minas Gerais is the most important suplier of manganese to Brazilian industries (Amapá, in the northern extreme of Brazil, produces a comparable amount of manganese, but that is almost entirely direct to exports).
For better operation, Vale do Rio Doce built and maintains a private rail network, 550 km long, which connects the mines of Minas to the port of Tubarão, in the State of Espirito Santo.
Besides minerals, Minas Gerais has also a relevant production of vegetal coal, which is mostly comsumed by the steel mills. The production of coal was an important factor in the devastation of natural forests; with their exhaustion, companies have been stimulated to develop reforestation projects (Belgo-mineira, a major steel company, has been investin in plantations of eucaliptus).

Infrastructure.Belo Horizonte is connected by roads to several other major Brazilian cities.
The BR-381, known as Fernão Dias, connects Belo Horizonte to São Paulo; Federal and State governments have made large investments to improve the conditions of the road.
Because rivers of Minas are of altitude, conditions are favorable for the instalation of hidroelectric plants. Examples of some large plants: Furnas, Peixoto, Marimbondo (river Grande, between Minas and São Paulo); São Simão and Emborcação (river Paranaíba, between Minas and Goiás); Três Marias (river São Francisco).
The distributor of electricity (read more about the Brazilian system of electric energy) in the State of Minas Gerais is Cemig. The company gained the headlines a few years ago because, after being privatized in 1997, it returned to State control by unilateral decision of the State of Minas, in 1998; today, 51% of the shares still belong to the government.

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