Kaolin: Georgia’s White Gold
Kaolin is one of Georgia’s most abundant and valuable natural resources. More than 6 million metric tons of this white clay are mined from Georgia each year, with an estimated value of more than $1 billion – an amount equal to the value of Georgia’s annual peach and peanut crops combined!
Highly versatile, kaolin is used in the manufacture of ceramics, as a coating in paper and paper packaging products, as a filler in plastics and fiberglass, as a pigment in paints, and as a cleanser and exfoliant in cosmetics. Kaolin also has pharmaceutical applications, lending its name to the original formula for Kaopectate and treating, among other things, the side effects of radiation therapy in cancer patients.
The word kaolin is derived from the Chinese town Kao-Ling (meaning “high ridge”), located in the Jiangxi Province of southeast China, where kaolin was mined and used in the earliest recorded manufacture of porcelain.
In Georgia, kaolin is generally found in a northeast to southwest band of deposits along the Fall Line marking Georgia’s prehistoric coast. The richest deposits are located in Middle Georgia in an area known as the White Gold Belt.
Georgia is the world leader in kaolin production and processing, having overtaken China and Europe in the last century. Although kaolin deposits were discovered with much fanfare in the Amazon River Basin, mining operators in Brazil have found themselves hampered by labor unrest, conflicts with indigenous peoples and concern over damage to the globally important rainforest ecosystem.
The global market for kaolin is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 3.3% to 5.6% through at least 2027. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the resilience of the kaolin market in even the most difficult of economic circumstances with demand increasing to assure the availability of safe and reliable packaging supplies.
Encyclopedia Britannica. Kaolin.
New Georgia Encyclopedia. Kaolin.
Research and Markets. Kaolin 2020: Industry Insights and Projections to 2027
Orian Research. COVID-19 Impact On Kaolin Market 2020 Industry Size, Global Analysis, Competitive Landscape, Regional Outlook, Key Companies and Development Trends by 2025.
BBC News. ‘They are invaders’: Brazil indigenous group takes on mining giant.