By Marcos de Oliveira
FAPESP – Better known for being used at barbecues, charcoal in Brazil is also responsible for the production of 30% of the pig iron, the metal alloy used for producing the steel used in vehicles, machines, ships, trains, cables and other products. Worldwide, this percentage is less than 1%. Thus, part of the steel made in the country is renewable, unlike the use of coal, which requires the exploration of finite mines, often underground, and in the case of Brazil is almost all imported. Charcoal or coal is essential for supplying the carbon in pig iron. The problem is that around 50% of Brazilian charcoal production, whether for barbecues or for producing steel, is also carried out in a rudimentary way, in a brick-oven, which is highly polluting and looks like an oca [Indian hut] or igloo, called a meda or rabo-quente [hot tail], and often uses native wood. The solutions, including the social solution because the industry often employs children and slave labor, are beginning to appear as a result of research by companies and universities and also the need for technological advances in the production of charcoal.
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