Georgia Magazine - October 2017 - 24
Where kaolin is king
White clay wields economic clout in state's midsection
BY ALLINE KENT
sked what first comes
paint and cosmetics.
to mind as a GeorIn its natural state,
gia crop or product,
kaolin is a soft powder; add
most people might respond
water and it becomes moldpeaches, poultry, pecans,
able. Add even more water
peanuts or, more recently,
and kaolin takes on the
blueberries. But there's a
consistency of wet cement.
natural resource found in
Different grades of kaolin
a wide swath through the
can be used in a variety of
center of the state that's just
ways; for example, extremeas prominent and economily pure kaolin is used in the
cally important: a white clay
production of rubber.
Georgia is blessed with
"china clay," is also used
Kaolin is a white, soft powder. While found in deposits around
an abundance of natural
extensively in the producthe world, kaolin reserves found across Georgia's Fall Line are
resources and industrial
tion of china and porcelain.
celebrated for their luster, purity and fineness.
minerals, but kaolin is
Georgia's British settlers
king-the No. 1 productionsent kaolin back to England
value mineral found in Georgia.
Glascock, Warren and Richmond
for the production of Wedgwood
Mining in the state is an economic
counties. Washington County is
pottery and china.
multiplier, says Lee Lemke, executive the leader of the industry in GeorNearly half of the kaolin mined
vice president of the Georgia Mining
gia, with 60 mine permits and five
is used to make paper. Kaolin allows
the ink to adhere to magazine pages
"For every mining job, 3.4 jobs
Kaolin clay has no value straight and provides the pages' glossy shine.
are created in the economy," Lemke
out of the ground; extensive proAbout one-third of the weight of a
says. "Kaolin provides $800 milcessing and blending make it suitmagazine is kaolin.
lion of production value a year, but
able for thousands of products. It is
"Minerals are important in evwhen you consider sales and payused as a filler and an extender and
eryday life. The demand has grown,
roll, kaolin has $2 billion worth of
can be found in products such as
and minerals are valuable to every
economic impact each year.
household," Lemke says.
Our mines are in rural comKaolin's origins can
munities and many times
be traced back millions of
[are] the main economic
years, to when the ocean
force in the community."
stretched across the middle
Georgia has more than
of Georgia in the area
800 surface mines and
now referred to as the Fall
borrow pits. In a surface
Line. Back when dinosaurs
mine, the mining is done
still roamed the Piedmont
after a top level is taken off
region of North Georgia,
and set aside to get to the
rocks began to break down.
mineral. In a borrow pit, the
The resulting sediment was
top level is borrowed for
carried by creeks and rivers
another project, usually a
toward the ocean, where it
The kaolin belt includes IMERYS employees give a crash course in geology on a mine tour
As the ocean receded,
during the annual Kaolin Festival. For more on the festival, schedmines in Twiggs, Wilkinsoil was deposited on top
son, Washington, Jefferson, uled this year for Oct. 13-14, see page 26.
of the eroding rock par24
More online at www.georgiamagazine.org