A town in the Paraíba Valley of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Volta Redonda is the home of Brazil's first steel mill, founded in 1941. Getúlio Vargas, visionary president of Brazil (1930–1945 and 1950–1954), brought the country out of the agrarian age into economic modernity by constructing a host of industrial projects, among which was the Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (CSN). The premier integrated steelmaker, it has played a vital role in the industrialization of the country for six decades.
Deftly playing off the United States against Nazi Germany, Vargas was able to secure a more favorable deal from Washington, which included a credit of $20 million towards the transfer of technology and purchase of equipment, although the Brazilian military openly favored a closer association with Germany, the then rising continental military power. With technology and advice from the United States, the country's first steel rolled off the line in 1946.
Today, CSN produces about six million metric tons, or a little over fifth of all Brazilian annual steel production (28 million tons in 2005). The company has focused on three areas: steelmaking, mining (iron ore, dolomite, limestone), and transport and electricity infrastructure. CSN owns five mills, three in Brazil and two overseas, Heartland Steel, in the United States and Lososider, in Portugal. It has narrowly lost a bid to India's Tata to acquire the Anglo-Dutch Corus Steel in early 2007, but its internationalization push remains strong. Rather than pursue an abrupt, all-or-nothing privatization of the company, the government of Brazil began to sell off its shares in CSN as early as in 1993. Today, 95 percent of the company's shares are in private hands—the Vicunha Siderúrgica holds 45.2 percent. With China's demand for steel increasing between 10 and 13 percent per year since 2003, CSN is well-positioned to emerge as a global integrated steelmaker with its control of one of the world's largest iron mines, Casa de Pedra in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Baer, Werner. The Development of the Brazilian Steel Industry. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1969.
Companhia Siderúrgia Nacional, corporate website. Available from www.csn.com.br.
Wirth, John D. The Politics of Brazilian Development 1930–1954. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1970.