Goonvean sale marks the end of an era

By Siobhan Lismore-Scott
Published: Monday, 26 November 2012

News that French industrial minerals behemoth Imerys had acquired UK-based kaolin producer Goonvean (p10) was met with sadness from some in the industry as it marked the demise of the last independent kaolin producer in the country.

News that French industrial minerals behemoth Imerys had acquired UK-based kaolin producer Goonvean (p10) was met with sadness from some in the industry as it marked the demise of the last independent kaolin producer in the country.

Kaolin production from the UK counties of Devon and Cornwall has declined by over 60% in the last 25 years, down to 1m tpa today from a peak of 3.3m tpa in 1988, due largely to the replacement of kaolin as a filler with precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) and ground calcium carbonate (GCC).

But the sale to Imerys is not a wave goodbye to Cornish kaolin production, as the deposit will continue to produce at a rate of 1m tpa under its new owner.

Export levels are expected to remain unchanged, with 90% of the clay produced from the area being shipped abroad, leaving just 10% for the UK market.

The UK has a long mining history that goes back several thousand years, although many of the nation’s deposits are now either out of use or exhausted.

Bentonite, also known as fullers earth (p40), has been worked in England since the Roman Times, according to a 2006 report by the British Geological Survey (BGS).

Deposits in the Redhill-Nutfield area of Surrey were seen as the most important source in the UK, accounting for around 65% of the cumulative output, but production ceased in 1998. In Bedfordshire, Bath and Kent, production also ceased in the 20 years to 2000.

Yet, despite the steady decline in the UK mineral industry’s fortunes, the Extractive Industry Geology (EIG) conference held earlier this year at Edge Hill University, UK, outlined a renewed interest in developing the nation’s mineral resources, which include potash, fluorspar and salt, spurred on by high commodity prices and security of supply concerns.

According to EIG’s Clive Mitchell: “The UK will never be self-sufficient in minerals but will play its part with new mineral developments based on new technological solutions to the requirement for low-carbon mineral extraction.”

Graphite projects under the radar

The UK might not have any graphite projects in the pipeline, but it will be welcoming key figures from the global graphite industry to London on 5-6 December for the 2nd annual Graphite Conference.

As some of the industry’s biggest and most vocal participants take to the stage, IM has decided to turn the spotlight on some of the less reported graphite developments underway across the world, with a special focus on projects in Spain, India, Turkey and Mexico (p50).

Moving Minerals

Shipping costs and packaging are vital vital considerations for any junior miner looking to bring a project online. It is no coincidence that these days the reporting of NI 43-101 results usually comes with logistics stipulations. The cost of freight is often ignored, but can make all the difference to a project’s economics.

This month IM is holding its third Moving Minerals roundtable event in Amsterdam. This will not only bring together those working in the ARA hub (p33) but also discuss new trends in packaging (p36) and give prospective miners a 101 back to basics look at bringing a mine from conception to fruition.



Siobhan Lismore
Editor