Georgia's Kaolin Industry
Employment, Economic &
What is Kaolin?
Kaolin, which is also known as "china clay," is a white, alumina-silicate
used in making paper, plastics, rubber, paints and many other products. Kaolin
deposits in middle Georgia resulted from the erosion of deeply weathered crystalline
rocks in the Piedmont Plateau, which were deposited along Georgia’s Fall Line.
This occurred between 50 and 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous and
Tertiary geological time periods, a time when the waters of the Atlantic Ocean
covered much of Georgia’s Coastal Plain.
The industry produced approximately 7.6 million finished tons of kaolin in
1992. Almost 80 percent of the kaolin produced in Georgia is used in filling
and coating: fine publication papers, light-weight catalog papers, and consumer
product packaging. Over the last three decades, kaolin products have been tailored
for paper applications ranging from low-cost pulp extenders to high-opacity
fillers and high-gloss and high-brightness coatings. Also, kaolin is a key
ingredient in mildew-resistant latex paints, vinyl wire insulation, printing
inks, cosmetics, rubber tires, fiberglass and nylon, and auto and truck body
Today, other applications for china clay are continually being discovered.
Kaolin is used in the production of medicines, ceramics, catalysts for petroleum
refining, and extenders for fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.
Economic opportunity for Georgian's
More than 4,400 Georgians are employed in the mining and processing of kaolin,
making kaolin the state’s most important mineral industry - with direct payroll
and employee benefits exceeding $232 million annually. Additionally, in 1992,
$103 million was paid to hundreds of other Georgians who work in businesses
serving the kaolin industry.
The kaolin industry provides steady employment for a largely rural part of
middle Georgia. This employment affects many counties, helping hundreds of
local businesses. In addition, the export activities of the industry are a
major source of revenue for Georgia’s Port of Savannah.
Total Economic Impact
The overall economic impact of the kaolin industry on Georgia is estimated
at $771 million in 1992. This figure includes payroll, employee benefits, capital
investment, contract services, energy, chemicals, operating materials and supplies,
research and development, rents and royalties, and taxes. Georgia’s kaolin
producers generate approximately $120 million each year in local, state and
Economists estimate that the total payroll effect exceeds $470 million annually
as payroll dollars are spent and recirculated in communities in middle Georgia
and throughout the state.
After the kaolin is removed, the land is carefully reclaimed
and restored by contouring and grading the surfaces to blend with the surrounding
terrain. Reclaimed lands are suitable for a wide variety of uses including
agriculture, forest production and wildlife.
1969, 80 percent of all lands mined have been reclaimed or are in the process
of being reclaimed. It is estimated that 3,700 acres are currently involved
in active mining.
Planning for the future
The kaolin industry is planning and investing in its future.
Each year millions of dollars are spent on research to develop new products
and new processing technology.
1992, the industry reported total capital investment for the production of
kaolin to be approximately $1.5 billion. During the past five years, $522 million
was invested in plants and equipment. By continuing to invest in Georgia, the
kaolin industry is working to maintain its leadership role in developing new
kaolin-based products for worldwide markets. While the industry is competing
daily with foreign producers and substitute mineral products, it is dedicated
to maintaining its present markets and developing new ones.
A Safe Industry
The kaolin industry makes safety a priority, spending more than $3.5 million
on safety education and accident prevention programs a year. The accident rate
involving lost work days is extremely low - 1.58 accidents per 100 employees
in 1992. The Mine, Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) has singled out
the kaolin industry as having one of the best mine safety records in the country.