By Ian Wilson, Independent
Asia is now the leading regional kaolin producer in the world
accounting for 28% of output in 2011 compared to 23% in 2007 as
shown in Table 1.
The main changes from 2007 to 2011
are a reduction in production from the US and UK and a
re-assessment of Chinese output. Bob Virta (US Geological
Survey Commodity Report for Clays) shows that kaolin
output from the US fell from 7.11m tonnes in 2007 to 5.77m
tonnes in 2011 with exports decreasing from 3.30m tonnes in
2007 to 2.49m tonnes in 2011.
The decrease of 1.34m tonnes in
production from 2007 to 2011 was mainly due to closure of
excess capacity and the switch of many paper mills to coating
clay from Brazil. However, USGS Minerals Commodity
Summarie's published in January 2013, estimated production
for 2012 increased to 5.9m tonnes, with exports at 2.37m
tonnes. From 2007 to 2011 output from the UK (Devon and
Cornwall) reduced from 1.60m tonnes to approximately 1m tonnes,
mainly due to cessation of coating clay production by Imerys to
concentrate on filler, ceramic and other grades.
Imerys, the largest kaolin
producing company in the world with an estimated output of
around 5m tonnes has concentrated its coating clay operation in
Brazil with IRCC (Imerys Rio Capim Caulim) and the recently
acquired PPSA from Vale. The second largest kaolin producer in
the world now is KaMin, which in 2012 acquired CADAM from Vale,
in the Amazon basin, increasing its overall capacity by
600,000m tonnes (with sales of around 400,000m tonnes from
CADAM at the present time).
Asia increased its share of kaolin
output from 2007 to 2011 from 23 to 28%. This is mainly due to
increased growth in the Chinese market and also a re-appraisal
of the Chinese kaolin output. The USGS reports that for 2011
output of kaolin was 33.3m tonnes.
However, this includes 5.5m tonnes
for crude kaolin from Uzbekistan and 3.55m tonnes of crude
kaolin from Czech Republic (with estimated output of
beneficiated kaolin of 900,000m tonnes). Virta reports that the
kaolin output for 2011 of processed clay was between 23 to 25m
tonnes. However, USGS reports do not indicate any kaolin
production from China and just report that in addition to
countries listed China may also have produced kaolin but
information is inadequate to make reliable estimates of output
levels. In this report it is estimated that output of
kaolin in 2011 from China was 4m tonnes of which 3m tonnes has
The output by region for 2011 is
shown in Figure 1 with Asia accounting for 28% of
global output of 23.4m tonnes processed kaolin. The top six
leading kaolin producing countries, US, China, Brazil, Germany,
UK and Czech Republic account for 66% of world production as
shown in Figure 2.
Kaolin production in Asia
Kaolin production in Asia is
estimated at 6.57m tonnes as shown in Table 2.
The output is dominated by China
with 61% as shown in Figure 3.
At the IM meeting
in Athens in 2008, the output of kaolin from China was
estimated at 2.78m tonnes. Recent information from China from
the 11th Five year plan of Non-Metallic Minerals
Industry shows that from 2005-2010 output of kaolin
increased from 3.1 to 4m tonnes (approximately 5% per annum).
For 2011 an output of 4m tonnes is estimated for Chinese
A detailed study of the market has
identified 3m tonnes which include both hydrous and calcined
clay. The calcined feed clay is from the so-called hard clays
of Northern China, generally associated with coal measures,
with hydrous kaolin from many deposits throughout China as
shown in Figure 4.
For the identified 3m tonnes of
beneficiated kaolin, 87% are hydrous and 13% calcined products.
For the 2.6m tonnes of hydrous kaolin approximately 8.54m
tonnes has been mined and beneficiated giving a product yield
of around 30%. For some of the deposits there is little waste
as much of the coarse quartz sands and feldspar is utilised in
For the 3m tonnes of identified
production, the market split is dominated by ceramics (39%),
paper (23%), paint (18%), plastics (5%) and others (15%). For
the 2.6m tonnes of hydrous kaolin, the market split is ceramics
(45%), paper (25%), paint (11%), plastics (2%) and others
(16%). For the 0.40m tonnes of calcined clay derived from the
hard kaolin deposits, the market split is paint (65%), plastics
(23%), paper (5%) and others (7%).
China is now the leading producer
of paper, porcelain, sanitaryware and tiles in the world with
kaolin consumption increasing significantly over the past
decade. Much attention has been paid in China to finding
suitable coating clay deposits as much of the higher quality
kaolin is imported from Brazil and US.
The leading producer of coating
clay in China is Maoming Kaolin Science & Technology Co.
Ltd (MMK); often referred to a Gao Ke (Gao is short
for kaolin and Ke short for Science). Maoming is
situated in Guangdong Province not far from the port of
Zhanjiang. The company was first established on its present
site in the late 1980s/early 1990s and was known as Maoming
Since 2002, MMK has been owned by
Highsun Enterprises Group, a company involved in a large number
of ventures including hotels, printing and now kaolin. In 2002
Highsun changed the name of the kaolin company to Maoming
Kaolin Science & Technology Co. Ltd, or Gao Ke. In June
2010 it was announced that Highsun invested in Kalamazon, a
company investigating the Manaus kaolin deposits in Brazil.
The Shange deposit is controlled by
Gao Ke and covers an area of 43.3km2. The yield of
coating clay at 80wt% <2µm is approximately 10% and at
the 95wt% <2µm level is probably as low as 5-8%. This
same area was drilled by English China Clays in the early 1990s
by the 704 Geological Team. The Maoming kaolin exhibits a very
well-defined pseudo-hexagonal morphology, as shown in
Figure 6, which is very typical of clays derived from
sedimentary kaolinitic-sands (similar examples are from Manaus,
Brazil and Poveda de la Sierra, Spain).
Current plant capacity is put at
250-300,000 tpa based mainly on spray-dried product at 1.5% and
filter cake product at 35% moisture. MMK coating clay is sold
to many of the major papermills in China including APP, Stora
Enzo, UPM, Chenming Paper Group and Sun Paper.
In the 5 year plan, domestic demand
of major non-metallic minerals for kaolin was reported as 3.20m
tonnes in 2010 with a forecast of 3.80m tonnes in 2015 (a 3.5%
growth rate per annum).
India is an important developing
market with two main locations of production based in Kerela
20 Microns is Indias largest
producer of micronised minerals which includes kaolin, calcium
carbonate, bartyes, mica, nepheline syenite, silica and talc.
Atil Parikh, joint managing director of 20 Microns, reports
that the kaolin mines are located in two different neighbouring
areas of Bhuj. Production facilities are now established at
Bhuj, Vadodara and Tirunelveli.
20 Microns produces a wide range of
hydrous, calcined and metakaolin grades as follows:
- 25,000 tonnes different
grades of hydrous kaolin - 10% paper, 70% coatings, 10%
ceramics, 5% plastics and 5% others. The rest of hydrous
capacity is used for feed material for manufacturing calcined
- 40,000 tonnes different
grades of calcined kaolin - 10% PVC cables, 5% paper, 5%
plastics, 75% coatings and 5% others.
- 5,000 tonnes metakaolin -
- Flash calcined kaolin has
been processed in pilot plant and has yet to be
These products are sold into
various industries such as paint and coatings, paper, cable and
ceramics. The hydrous kaolin has an ISO brightness ranging from
75-85 and an average particle size ranging from 0.3 to 2
microns. The calcined clays have high brightness ranging from
85-94 ISO brightness and an average particle size ranging from
0.5 to 1.5 microns.
English Indian Clays Ltd
English Indian Clays Ltd (EICL) has
clay and starch divisions and is a well established company
originally set-up as a joint-venture with English China Clays
(now Imerys). In 1992 EICL became a fully owned Indian Company.
Production capacity is 240,000 tpa with 180,000 tpa hydrous
kaolin and 60,000 tpa calcined kaolin with its mine and
processing plants located at Veli, northwest of Trivandrunm,
Kerala. Calcined clay capacity was increased to 60,000 tpa in
2009. EICL is the largest single producer of kaolin in Asia
based on its high quality sedimentary kaolin deposits in the
Some of the hydrous and calcined
kaolin grades are shown below.
SUPERGLOSS Spray dried. 87.5 ISO Brightness, mps
0.25µm - Paper coating
HIGLOSS Lump, 86.5 ISO Brightness, mps 0.35µm - Paper
BCK Spray dried, 85.0 ISO Brightness, mps 0.4µm - LWC
SUPERLUSTRE Powder, 87.5 ISO Brightness, mps 0.25µm -
Liquid ink opacifer
HIMAFINE Powder, 93.5 ISO Brightness, mps 0.8 µm - Top
coat in boards
HIMACOT Powder, 92.0 ISO Brightness, mps 1.3 µm -
Pre-coat in boards
HIMAFIL Powder, 90.0 ISO Brightness, mps 1.7 µm -
HIMAFIL Powder, 90.0 ISO Brightness, mps 1.4 µm -
Anti-blocking in films
(mps - mean particle size)
In its annual report for 2011-12,
EICL reported it is exploring the possibility of establishing a
clay manufacturing unit at Bhuj, Gujarat with purchase of
0.105km2 and is in the process of obtaining various
approvals required for the project.
In 2011-12 sales of the clay
business were flat in volume terms and 8% higher in sales due
to higher price and improved product mix. Export volume
increased by about 10%. EICL spent half of its turnover on
R&D expenditure and this work included utilisation of low
quality matrix, new process techniques for the removal of other
minerals from the clay, development of delaminated clay for
barrier applications and studies on surface treated hydrous
The kaolin plant at Kollam,
acquired from Wolkem, has been found to be unviable due to
various external and internal factors and it is intended to be
For several decades, Ashapura has
been mining, processing and supplying kaolin products from its
reserves in Bhuj, Gujarat. In recent years Ashapura has
acquired reserves of between 2.5-3m tonnes in the state of
Kerala. These deposits are in the same area as those of English
Indian Clays. Ashapura has built a modern plant at Trivandrum
with a capacity of 180,000 tpa which will produce both hydrous
and calcined grades. The current output is believed to be well
below capacity as it is a new operation. Some of the planned
grades are shown below.
PALGLOSS 95 90-93% <2µm, 85-87 ISO brightness, high
glossing paper coating
PAPRILL 80-85% <2µm, 80-82 ISO brightness, paper
CERALIN H Sanitaryware clay
KAOMIN FG Fibre glass
PESTOLIN Pesticide formulations
KAOCOAT 83-87% <2µm, 92-94 ISO brightness, paper
PAINTOLIN 95CD 80-85% <2µm, 92-94 ISO
KAOMIN MK Metakaolin for concrete additive
In Rajasthan sedimentary kaolinitic
sands are being developed by Progressive Enterprises (and its
sister company Popular Minerals) with a mine and plant in the
district of Chittorgarth. The natural silica sand has 99.5%
SiOs content and is used in glass. The white kaolin
is currently used in various ceramic bodies and glazes. Markets
for paper, paint, plastics, ceramics and other uses are being
South Korea production of kaolin
for 2011 is put at 463,000 tonnes serving tile, refractory,
construction, bone china and others with a further 335,000
tonnes for high quality bricks. Local ceramic companies are
Samsung Ceramic and Asia Ceramic with Samhyun buying and
grinding/processing local kaolin to supply end-users.
South Korea relies on high quality
hydrous and calcined clay for many industries as advised by SB
Park of SBP Ltd. Calcined clay imports for 2011 were 49,000
tonnes mainly from the US with 19,000 tonnes (US $ 464/tonne
CIF), China 18,000 tonne ($303/tonnes CIF) and other cheaper
imports. Korea is an important paper producing country and
1.185m tonnes mineral pigment were used in 2011 dominated by
ground calcium carbonate (GCC) with 1.1m tonnes, precipated
calcium carbonate (PCC) 100,000 tonnes and 85,000 tonnes of
imported paper coating clay mainly from the US and some from
Brazil. 16,000 tonnes of hydrous kaolin was imported in 2011
for non-paper markets supplied from China, Vietnam, Indonesia
and UK for ceramic grades.
Thailand is an important country
for the production of high quality ceramics, particularly
tableware and sanitaryware. One of the largest producers of
kaolin in Southeast Asia is Imerys Ceramics with ball clay,
feldspar and a kaolin operation at Ranong.
Grades such as MRD Plus, MRD
Standard and MRD Wite are produced for tableware and porcelain
and MRD Cast for sanitaryware. The deposit at Ranong is a
kaolinised granite with some cross cutting pegmatite veins.
Alteration of the granite has led to the development of tubular
halloysite, rather than platy kaolinite, with the tubes up to
20µm in length, especially so in the cross cutting
pegmatite zones where the feldspar has been altered to
halloysite as well.
The presence of coarse tubes of
halloysite gives the clay excellent casting properties. Local
producers demand a very high casting rate, and combined with
the good casting concentration the kaolin is ideally suited for
sanitaryware. Low iron bearing clay suitable for tableware and
porcelain can be selectively mined.
Malaysia has a number of kaolin
producing companies mining kaolinised granite. Three of the
main companies are:
- Kaolin (M) Sdn Bhd -
capacity is 90,000 tpa with a plant in Tapah. The markets
served are mainly paint, paper, rubber, adhesives and
- Associated Kaolin Industries
Sdn Bhd - capacity around 92,000 tpa and based in Tapah. Sells
products under AKIMA trade name. Markets are filler
clay, paint, ceramics, palm oil refining, rubber and
- Sibelco Malaysia acquired
Tinex, a kaolin, mining and processing Company in Bidor, Perak
in 2005. Capacity is put at around 60,000 tpy with TK50, TK35
and TK25 grades sold mainly to the paint and ceramics markets.
TK15 is sold for palm oil refining.
Prior to the financial crisis in
the late 1990s kaolin output from Indonesia was around 500,000
- 600,000 tpa with production mainly from Belitung Island. Here
kaolinised granite was mined and processed by many companies of
which PT Alter Abadi was the largest. Today production is
estimated at just 150,000 tpa mainly from Belitung Island. In
the 1990s a major market for kaolin from Belitung was filler
clay but this market was largely replaced by GCC. The main
markets now are for paint and ceramics.
Other kaolin production is reported
from Bangladesh, Japan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
An estimate of markets supplied
from kaolin produced in Asia is shown in Figure 7 and
indicates that ceramics is the largest with paint and paper
following. The production figure of 5.57m tonnes excludes the
1m tonnes for Chinese kaolin where end-use not yet determined.
These figures do not include imported kaolin which would be
included in consumption figures not prepared due to
insufficient information at this stage.
Paper indutry in
Figures from RISI for 2011 show
that paper and board production in Asia was 171.6m tonnes
representing 43% of global output of 398.9m tonnes as shown in
A plot of the global paper and
board output of 398.9m tonnes in 2011 is shown in Figure
8 with China with 25% and other Asian countries with 18%
of the global share.
In 1994 China only produced 21m
tonnes so this has been a dramatic increase. The 11 leading
countries produce 299.8m tonnes accounting for 75% of global
paper and board output in 2011 with China leading the way with
almost 25%. Asia is represented by China, Japan, South Korea,
Indonesia and India (Table 4) with positive growth
rates from 2010 to 2011 of 7.1% for China, 3.5% for South
Korea, Indonesia with 1.2% and India with good growth of 4.7%.
Of the other countries outside Asia only Brazil showed
increased output of 1.8%.
The paper and board production in
Asia for 2011 was 171.6m tonnes with China accounting for 58%
followed by Japan with 15% as shown in Figure 9.
Asia's consumption of paper coating
clay is being re-assessed but estimates of consumption in 2011
for six countries (figures for India not available) are shown
in Table 5.
Of this 1.82m tonnes the only
significant coating clay is produced in China from the Maoming
operation of MMK with production of 300,000m tonnes. EICL
(India) is the other important producer of coating clay. The
remaining 1.52m tonnes is imported mainly from the US (Georgia)
and Brazil (Imerys operations of Rio Capim Caulim and KaMin
operation of CADAM).
The imports of kaolin into Japan
have decreased since 2007 when 1m tonnes was imported from the
US (750,000 tonnes) and Brazil (250,000 tonnes). Japan is
showing a decline in its paper output but still a very
important country for imports of kaolin now estimated in 2011
at 800,000 tonnes supplied mainly by Imerys and the US
producers KaMin, BASF and Thiele.
For China the main suppliers are
KaMin (Hydragloss 90), CADAM - now KaMin (Amazon SB), BASF
(Miragloss 90, 91) and Thiele (Guangze Plus and Kaofine 90)
accounting for up to 350,00 tpa of imports. Prices of imported
coating clay are at present around $250-280/tonne (CIF).
The main pigment for paper in China
is now GCC for both filler and coating paper but the top coat
of fine particle size GCC is blended with imported coating clay
to give the sheet its gloss. PCC is also used as filler at
satellite plants at various paper mills. For China, C65 (65%
<2 microns) is the filler and C95 and C98 are for coating.
The price range for GCC in China in 2010 is shown in Figure
10 along with outlined pricing for local Maoming kaolin
and imported kaolin on cif and delivered basis. The price of
pulp is high which has led to paper makers increasing the
amount of filler and coating pigments, and hence less pulp, to
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Professor Wen
Lu of Chengdu, China, Atil Parikh (Joint Managing Director) of
20 Microns, India, SB Park of SB Resources Ltd, Seoul, Korea
and Larry Lai, Yie-Lie Enterprises, Shanghai, China for kindly
providing information for this article. Particular thanks to
Bob Virta of USGS for his updates on Global Kaolin production
in regular Mineral Commodities Reports.