IM 2012 Round-ups: Kaolin

By Kasia Patel
Published: Friday, 21 December 2012

The trend of consolidation of the major kaolin producing companies in recent years continued into 2012 with Imerys’ acquisition of Goonvean and KaMin’s purchase of CADAM SA from Vale.

The trend of consolidation of the major kaolin producing companies in recent years continued into 2012 with Imerys’ acquisition of Goonvean and KaMin’s purchase of CADAM SA from Vale.

The 15 major producing companies operating in 1980 consolidated to 12 in 1990 and are now down to just six. Imerys is the market leader with KaMin, Thiele, Sibelco, AKW (Quartzwerke) and BASF being the other participants.

KaMin and CADAM

In May, US kaolin producer KaMin LLC purchased a majority stake in CADAM, a subsidiary of Vale, for $30.1m, placing it firmly as the second- largest supplier of kaolin in the world.

KaMin and CADAM both supply products to the paper industry, the largest end use for kaolin with a 43%-share of the market.

Imerys and Goonvean

The last independent UK kaolin producer disappeared in November, as Imerys announced the acquisition of Goonvean’s kaolin activities in Cornwall.

All kaolin production from south-west England will now be produced between just two companies, with production from Devon controlled by Belgian producer Sibelco, while Imerys will control kaolin production from Cornwall.

The decline of kaolin

Production of kaolin from south-west England is now around 1m tpa, just one third of totals seen in 1988. The dramatic decrease in kaolin production is due to a combination of factors, one of which has been the replacement of kaolin as a filler with precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) and ground calcium carbonate (GCC).

Some 87% of the paper market used kaolin in 1980, but by 2010, 65% of the market was using GCC due to a switch by papermakers from an acid-based processing route to an alkali-based route for production.

Orbite

Orbite Aluminae Inc. agreed to buy the Chaswood kaolin clay and sand property in Nova Scotia, Canada from a private company in December.

The property, located in Halifax County, consists of 163 claims, which span over a 26.1km2 area in central Nova Scotia.

New supply

In January, Energizer Resources Inc. signed a joint-venture deal with Australia-based Malagasy Minerals Ltd for the exploration and development of a range of industrial minerals, including kaolin, in Madagascar.

April saw Applied Minerals Inc., the US-based halloysite producer, enter into a supply agreement with Samsung Cheil Industries, a South Korean affiliate of the Samsung group.

In June, Imerys announced that it was to open its first new kaolin pit in the UK since it opened Old Pound Pit in 1984, at the existing company operation in Cornwall, with final restoration scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.

I-Minerals Inc. completed its first production and inaugural sale of feldspathic sand from its Helmer-Bovill property in Idaho, US, in October 2012.

And in November Ashapura Minechem Ltd subsidiary, Ashapura International, said it plans to set up a kaolin powder-making plant at Bhuj in Gujarat, India, making the company one of the largest kaolin producers in Asia.

India’s estimated kaolin reserves are 2.59bn tonnes. Kerala has become a hub for India’s kaolin production, accounting for 24%, followed by West Bengal with 16%.