Curvelo is a city and municipality in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. It is located in the geodesic center of Minas Gerais, 160 km. north of the capital, Belo Horizonte, and connected to the capital by highways MG 135 and BR 040. Its estimated population is 71,611 inhabitants (2007) and the total area of the municipality is 3,344 kmª. The city lies at an altitude of 633 meters.
It is located on a large raised plain in the center of the state, where there are no mountain chains. It is between the basins of the São Francisco River, the Rio das Velhas, Paraopeba, Cipó, and Bicudo. Neighboring municipalities are: Corinto, Felixlândia, Inimutaba, Monjolos, Morro da Garça, Presidente Juscelino and Santo Hipólito. The distance to Belo Horizonte is 170 kilometers. Connecting highways are BR-135, coming from the south, and BR-259, east to west.
Curvelo's economy is mainly dependent on goods and services, but agriculture is still important. The Gross Domestic Product in 2005 was R$ 413 million, with 264 million from services, 55 million from industry, and 44 million from agriculture. The cattle herd had 122,000 head in 2006. In the rural area there were 1,165 producers on 172,000 hectares. Only 210 of the farms had tractors (2006). Around 4,000 people were involved in agriculture (2006). The main crops were citrus fruits, rice, sugarcane, beans, manioc, and corn. As of 2007 there were 7 banks and 8,487 automobiles, giving a ratio of 8 inhabitants per automobile.
In recent years the planting of eucalyptus trees on a great scale to provide charcoal for the industries of Sete Lagoas and Contagem has brought revenue to the municipality but has also contributed to great ecological damage to the fauna and flora. One company alone, V&M Florestal Ltda., has 338.67 km² planted in the municipality. More land is also used for charcoal production in João Pinheiro, Bocaiúva, Brasilândia, Paraopeba and other smaller communities.
Traditionally small round ovens were used on each property to make charcoal, but these are gradually being replaced by modern more centralized ovens. When the charcoal is ready it is transported by truck to the industrial area of greater Belo Horizonte.
In addition to the ecological damage of destroying the land to plant trees of only one species, the physical risks for the charcoal workers are: excessive fatigue due to lifting and transporting heavy materials, which can bring on physical stress and cause damage to various muscles and skeletal structures (one study showed that a typical charcoal worker will carry 7,000 kilos of Eucalyptus wood to fill a 5 cubic meter oven in one hour!); long hours of work, including shifts during nights and the weekends, which brings about alterations in biological rhythms, increasing the risk of accidents on the job, difficulty in sleeping, chronic fatigue and loss of emotional control; and dust and smoke inhalation, causing skin irritations, conjunctivitis, and respiratory problems.
Brazil is the largest world producer of "ferro-gusa" or pig iron (used in the production of steel), which has as its base this charcoal produced from trees. Counting only last year, the 52 industries involved in the production of "ferro-gusa" made 700 million dollars in profit. "Ferro-gusa" is a primary substance in modern ironworks industry. Mineral charcoal, the closest alternative, is not largely used in this industry in Brazil, since the country does not have significant mineral charcoal reserves.
The above figures can be compared with those of Poços de Caldas, which had an MHDI of .841, the highest in the state of Minas Gerais. The highest in the country was São Caetano do Sul in the state of São Paulo with an MHDI of .919. The lowest was Manari in the state of Pernambuco with an MHDI of .467 out of a total of 5504 municipalities in the country as of 2004. At last count Brazil had 5,561 municipalities so this might have changed at the time of this writing.