Brazil is the only country in the world still producing pig iron in charcoal blast furnaces. Currently, almost 10% (3.45Mt)of Brazilian steel is obtained using pig iron from charcoal mini-blast furnaces. This implies important environmental advantages, such as the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions during the industrial process.
A year after the enactment of the Brazilian Charcoal Sustainability Protocol, the steel industry has developed several activities in order to fulfil that commitment and collaborate in the construction of an environmentally sustainable country.
Brazil has favourable conditions for the production of biomass, due to its generous forests and climatic and ecological conditions that allow the rapid growth of vegetation. This has made Brazil an undisputed leader in the production of steel by using charcoal as a reducing agent of iron ore.
One of the most important commitments established in the Protocol for the steel industry is to ensure that, by 2016, 100% of the charcoal demand will be satisfied by planted woods largely Eucalyptus plantation.
Between 2011 and 2012, steel industry owned woods - as a source for charcoal- increased their share from 80% to 86%. The integrated steel companies that manufacture charcoal own 5070km2 of plantations. Also, they promote the development of plantations owned by third parties.
The government of Brazil also plays a fundamental role. The country should ensure that charcoal based pig iron production meets new sustainability standards. To achieve this, the National Executive Power and the public financial agents should facilitate funding to ensure that the social and environmental benefits can be gained from adapting these companies to the new requirements.
The government should also consider the creation of policies that give an alternative livelihood to thousands of small semi-informal charcoal producers that do not operate within the legal norms.