Summary Due to growing environmental concerns and the need to use less energy-intensive building products, alternatives and improvements to Portland cement (PC) are being actively researched worldwide. Use of supplementary materials is now a common practice where PC is the predominant component of inorganic building products. This study aims to investigate the potential of magnesia (MgO), derived from a naturally occurring raw material magnesite, as a supplementary material. Results from mortar samples prepared with 10 and 20% replacements of ordinary Portland cement (OPC) by MgO are presented. DTA-TG was used to study and characterise the hydration behaviour of MgO in OPC environment after 3, 7, 14, 28, 56 and 90 days of moist curing. Microstructural and compressive strength determinations providing additional information on the influence of hydrated phases are also reported.