Brazil / Places We Go

JC’s Diopside Mine in Alagoas, Brazil

I’d be willing to bet that not many of you know what diopside is. Don’t feel bad though. Prior to our trip to Brazil, I didn’t know either.

Diopside – chemical formula MgCaSi2O6 – is an industrial mineral used for everything from covering electrodes to absorbing oxygen in molten steel to helping contain nuclear waste.

And it just so happens that Julius Cesar Uchoa has a mine on top of the largest diopside deposit in Brazil. And it just so happens that Julius Cesar Uchoa (JC) is the ex-husband of my dear Uncle Teddy’s girlfriend – Susan.

It’s complicated, but the bottom line is that we were given a tour of the diopside operation by JC himself.

This is JC inside the processing facility for the diopside, explaining to us how things work:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

And this is the machine that processes the diopside:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

And this is the transformer that pumps out 300 kilowatts to keep the machinery operating:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

The raw chunks of diopside are fed into this machine that grinds the diopside down…

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

…into these balls that Eleonora is kindly holding here for you, dear readers, to demonstrate its size…

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

…or into a powder which is what these sacks are full of:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

Here is the processing machine feeding diopside powder into a sack like those featured above:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

It doesn’t take many guys to keep the machine operating:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

An office at the main facility:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

Equipment outside waiting to be used:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

Next we drove out to the site where the diopside is currently being mined, which was just a few minutes away:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

The miners at work:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

There may be bulldozers in the background, but a lot of these guys are working with picks and hammers:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

This is what they’re after… A pile of diopside ore ready to be taken for processing:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

The lunch bell rang while we were visiting and the miners disappeared like phantoms. It wasn’t until we were leaving that we saw them again, huddled under a tree down the road for shade.

These two jackhammers, powered by a nearby air compressor, are being used to break up a rich vein of diopside:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

The diopside deposit here covers approximately three hectares and extends for 20 to 30 meters down.

Explosives are used in conjunction with heavy equipment such as the bulldozer below to pry out the diopside:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

JC surveying his mine… He has 30 employees now and would like to get up to 60 employees with a goal of shipping 800-1000 tons of processed diopside a month.

JC started mining here fifteen years ago and has been shipping diopside to Sao Paulo for the last seven years:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

In front of the bulldozer, you can see the shovels and hammers used to break up the tough rock:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

Not all the miners were able to take off for lunch. These guys had to stay behind to get this Cat working again:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

You might be wondering how JC discovered this site and got into mining… Or you might not, but I’m going to tell you the story anyway.

Two decades ago when the road pictured below was being constructed, an engineer friend noticed some unusual rocks as the road crew cut through the small hill pictured on the left. The friend took some samples to JC and after testing, it was determined that they were very pure diopside. JC bought up the surrounding land and his mine was born:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

Lastly, JC took us to a nearby site that he is just starting to develop. He owns 90% of the land and is now just waiting for permission from the government to start extracting diopside here. The whiter diopside is, the more desirable it apparently is. As you can see, the diopside that JC has on these sites is extremely white:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

Below is a device used to drill for test samples in order to determine the range and quality of the mineral deposits here.

The machine on the right is the drill and the blue device on the left is a high pressure pump to supply water for the drilling:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

The drill descending into the depths… JCs goal is to go down fifty to sixty meters at each of the test sites:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

The engine that powers the drill:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

An interesting geological “oh by the way” is a field of graphite that covers one part of the new site:

JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

It is not economically viable to mine it, but it is noteworthy all the same. Below, is a picture I took of a chunk of graphite on my notepad:

Graphite at JC's diopside mine in Alagoas, Brazil

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One thought on “JC’s Diopside Mine in Alagoas, Brazil

  1. I remember one thing of that day: it was miserably hot! Interesting tour, I didn’t know anything about diopside before that day either. JC made a fortune with this mine.

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