The British Cemetery at Gongo Soco

Portugal exercised a complete monopoly over trade with its Colony, Brazil- requiring that all purcheses from, and exports to, be made via Portugal. One very important export item which Potugal obtained from Brazil was gold - at “puchased price”, which greatly enhanced the finances of the country and the monarchy.

For at least three hundred years, men in Brazil - conveniently “supported” by slaves - had scraped at surface deposits, panned river gravels and worked shallow excaviations, in the search for gold.

The know-how and equipment to pursue gold in depth was not there, and with the gradual exhaustion of readily won suface deposits, the gold mining activity - specially in the Ouro Preto region - virtually ceased towards the end of the 18th Century.

Following the decree issued in 1880 by the Portuguese Regent, Dom João, allowing for the opening of Brazilian harbours to commerce of all friendly countries, early in 1824, a Constitutional Decree was issued, introducing the notion of mining concessions.

Taking advantage of the above mentioned decree, a British Company was set up in 1824 - known as The Imperial Brazilian Gold Mining Association, wich subsequently bought from the Barão de Catas Altas, his gold mines- entitled Gongo Soco.

The Gongo Soco mine was operated under the supervision of British engineers and workers from 1826 to 1856, when it was abandoned. Over the abovementioned period, it produced 12,827 kilogrammes of gold.  The buildings of the mine, as well as the villages which it encompassed, spread over 1.6 kilometres. At the time, the mine was of such importance that Dom Pedro I visited it in 1831, his presence being honoured by the building of a triumphal arch in the area, wich then marked the entrance to the Estrada Real, joining Sabará to Ouro Preto, passing through Morro Grande, Brumal, Catas Altas do Mato Dentro and Mariana, thus completing the “Círculo de Ouro das Minas Gerais”.

A stone walled British cemetery was established in the area time. British labourers were buried there, but alas, ten headstones are the only remnants of the British presence in the area...

Unfortunately, the entire area now lies in ruins and sadly, has been negleted.

Charles R. Dow