A scholarly, well-documented, objective study of the Brazilian iron and steel industry has been long overdue. This need has now been met in Werner Baer’s timely book. Much valuable information is given on the economics of the steelmaking process and the relative costs of plant expansion and production. In this connection it is revealing to find that the Brazilian ability to manufacture steelmaking equipment in several categories has risen significantly between the mid-1950s and 1965. This signalizes Brazil’s coming of age in an era of steel.

A resumé of the size, location, and quality of basic steelmaking resources indicates that Brazil has most of the needed natural resources in significant amounts, with the exception of good coking coal. In fact Brazil has one of the largest iron ore deposits in the world, ranking third, and the nation accounts for three-quarters of Latin America’s reserves. The author feels that the problem of poor coking coal can be offset by exporting iron ore in exchange for quality coke.

The historical development of the Brazilian iron and steel industry from colonial times to the present is well told. In this survey Baer notes the establishment of foundries, furnaces, and forges during the sixteenth century and the role played in these endeavors by such early figures as Federico de Varhagen, Baron Guilherme de Eschwege, and Jean de Monlevade. The founding of the School of Mines in 1879 by the French engineer Henrique Gorceix proved to be an important event in that many graduates of the school became leaders of the steel industry as it developed from the 1920s through the 1960s. The evolution of the industry during the period between the two World Wars is fortified with comparative production figures and is highlighted with the establishment in 1921 of the Belgo-Mineira plant and its expansion in the mid-1980s. For years this charcoal-based mill produced the bulk of Brazil’s steel products.

The nationalistic urge to build and control a fully integrated, coke-based steel mill took form in the construction of the government-owned National Steel Mill at Volta Redonda during the Second World War. A brief, historical sketch is given on background events and the construction of this company, with an interesting account of the American contribution to this effort. During the post-war period several steel mills were established, while some of the older companies expanded production. Outstanding in this regard was the founding of two fully-integrated, coke-based plants: the Companhia Siderúrgica Paulista (COSIPA) located near Santos in the state of São Paulo, and the other, Usimas, built near the iron ore deposits in the state of Minas Gerais. Each started as a private enterprise venture, but with the passing of time and the need for operating and expansion capital, each has become government-owned and operated.

Brazil, which produced approximately 180,000 tons of steel in 1940, lifted its production by 1967 to more than 3.7 million tons. The nation is the largest steel-producing state in all of Latin America, with two-thirds of its steelmaking capacity in the hands of government-controlled firms. An interesting observation is that by 1960 Brazil no longer required imported steel to satisfy domestic demand—the fulfillment of a long-time economic dream. Another worthwhile point is that whereas the Brazilian mills were entirely dependent on charcoal during the 1930s, by 1960 over 55% were using the more economical coal-derived coke in the smelting process. On the basis of many statistics, Baer concludes that Brazil has been developing into an efficient and relatively low-cost producer of steel. He asserts that the industry is competitive in the comparative-cost sense without any recourse to the “infant industry” arguments or the external benefit claims made by many a developing state.