Minas Chico Rei

Mine of Chico Rei - Little King's Mine - Minas Encardideira

Useful Information

Location: Rua Dom Silvério 108, Ouro Prêto - MG 35400-000.
Ouro Prêto, close to the church Nostra Seniora da Conceição.
(-20.386274, -43.499473)
Open: All year daily 8-17.
Fee: Adults BRL 30, Children (0-7) free.
Classification: MineGold Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: D=45 min, L=300 m.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Minas Chico Rei, Rua Dom Silvério 108, Bairro Antônio Dias, Ouro Prêto - MG 35400-000, Tel: +55-31-3551-1749, Tel: +55-31-3552-2866.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1702 mine opened.
1740 Galanga brought to Brazil as a slave.
1745 Galanga bought his freedom.
1888 mine closed.
1950s mine rediscovered when recovering a ball from the mine.


Ouro Prêto sits right on an outcrop of banded iron formation. This formation is a sedimentary rock with many layers of iron ore, often altered to iron oxide especially ochre. There are also copper deposits, which sometimes are transformed to malachite. The dark rocks were the reason for its name Ouro Prêto which means black gold as a reference to the dark colour of the local gold, which contains a lot of iron oxides. However, the gold is mostly bound to gold bearing quartz veins, not to the iron.


Restaurante da Mina do Chico Rei, Ouro Prêto, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Public Domain.

Mina Chico Rei is named after an African king who was enslaved with his tribe and brought to Brazil. His name was Galanga, and he was from the Congo. When the Portuguese slave traders noticed his authority amongst his compatriots, they nicknamed him Chico Rei (little king). Galanga had to work hard in the gold mines, but he was hiding flakes of gold about his body and in his hair. After five years he had enough gold to buy his freedom. Later he freed his son, and together they were able to buy this mine, which was at this time called Mina Encardideira. They mined the gold and spent all the money they earned to free other slaves and to build the church Santa Efigênia.

Its not clear if this story is true or a legend. There are actually no written documents about him, he first appears in a footnote of the book História Antiga de Minas by Diogo de Vasconcelos in 1904. There could be documents like a register of property owners or mine owners were he should be listed, but actually the story is based on oral tradition. And so there are people who believe it is true and others who don't.

The mine was closed at some point and forgotten, the entrance was walled in a rather simple way. In the 1950s the children of the family living in the house were playing in the background and a ball vanished through a hole in the wall into the mine. When they opened the wall to recover the ball, they were surprised to discover a mine gallery. They researched and discovered that it was once owned by Chico Rei. When they opened it to the public, probably the first show mine in town, they renamed it after Chico Rei. One of the ball playing boys, Toninho da Mina, operates the show mine until today. The mine is used as object of study by students in some undergraduate and graduate courses. It was surveyed by undergraduates in geology.

Mina Encardideira is one of the biggest gold mines in the area and has many kilometers of tunnels. It cuts through the banded iron formation. The gold was mined from gold bearing quartz veins, a few can still be seen today.