The UK government's plan to build 1m new homes by 2020 will
provide a boost for industrial minerals, such as clays and
pigment minerals, needed for the production of construction
materials, industry experts told IM
today at the Claytech Conference in
house-building boom in the UK is expected to boost demand
for clay minerals (source: Concrete
Speaking to IM on the sidelines
of the conference, Industrial Clay Technology Association
(ICTa) chairman, Guy Armitage, said that the clay industry is
expanding, with new opportunities appearing along the entire
supply chain, from quarrying to the brick-making.
"Ultimately, the mood is a lot more positive than it was
four to five years ago. There is not only good demand but new
investment in the industry," Armitage
told IM. "The country needs more
houses and the economy is picking up."
Fire clay, kaolin, ball clay and alumino-silicates are among
the industrial minerals typically consumed by the housebuilding
US-based Prince Minerals Ltd colours the clays used in brick
production, and the company's UK managing director, Craig
Cherry, told IM that demand for the
company's products had increased since the 2008 financial
crisis, adding that the sector was picking up again.
The uptick in demand, Cherry said, was reflected in the
recent reopening of a brick manufacturing plant in the south of
In the north of England, meanwhile, brick maker Hanson
Building Products reopened its Lancashire factory in Accrington
after shutting its doors seven years ago.
Construction was one of the worst hit sectors in the UK
during the last recession, with government figures indicating a
13% contraction of the industry in 2009 and housebuilding
falling to an all-time low.
The sector has since picked up however, following a rebound
in house prices and continued population growth, and the
housebuilding sector grew 18% in 2014, driven by new housing
starts as a result of the UK government's "Help to Buy"
Focus on quality
However, while demand is increasing, The Red Mason brickwork
consultant, Gerard Lynch, warned that the UK needed to raise
the bar with craftsman apprenticeships. He described existing
programmes as being poor in quality, which is leading to a
shortage of bricklayers.
He added that some bricklayers were not doing justice to the
products produced by brick makers and that new craftsmen were
needed to replace an ageing workforce.
Elsewhere, British Gypsum's mineral and estates manager, Jeremy
Elvins, said that the company was benefiting from mining
engineers returning home from working abroad due to the global
The Leicestershire-based company
told IM earlier this year that it
makes a concerted effort to reach out to graduate
students via open days and placements to attract the
Although many students choose to go overseas, properly
engaging them can make a difference. According to Dr Andrew Wetherelt,
programme director for undergraduate mining at the University
of Exeter in the UK: "It’s a good time for the UK
industrial minerals market because the numerous overseas
opportunities are not currently there."