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A poorly mechanised process, dependent on human labour
The charcoal production process has been known since the Bronze Age, and was vital to metallurgy until the discovery of the conversion of coal to coke at the beginning of the 18th century.1 Brazil, now the largest charcoal producer of the world, with more than 12 million metric tons in year 2002,2 has preserved its charcoal based industries in large part because it has extensive iron deposits and very few coal mines.3
TASKS OF THE JOB
In Brazil, charcoal is produced on an industrial scale primarily by carbonisation of wood in masonry kilns, in a poorly mechanised process that is highly dependent on human labour.1,4 We observed the charcoal producing process in the northeastern area of Bahia State, Brazil, and identified the following tasks.
Charcoal making begins with the falling of trees, usually Eucalyptus or Pinus grown in plantations. After lumberjacks have cut the tree using a chain saw, helpers take away the branches, and the timber is cut to size and allowed to air dry.
Transportation of wood
Wood transporters pile up logs in areas that tractors or trucks can access. Tractor and truck helpers load timber in the cutting areas and pile it at the kiln area. Helpers travel from the cutting area to the kiln area on the top of the log pile on the loaded vehicle. Workers stay on the top of the pile for the loading and unloading process (fig 1).
Filling the kiln
Up to hundreds of brick kilns are built in each site, in single or multiple lines so that they can be loaded and unloaded consecutively. The shape of the kilns varies from a hemisphere to a cylinder with round tops; the latter can be up to 2.5 m high, and …
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