Prospecting and Mining

Raw kaolin is considered a natural resource, and nature has given Georgia an abundance of this mineral. However, unlike some minerals such as coal, this resource is of little or no value when taken from the ground; kaolin companies cannot simply "dig and ship." For this reason, the kaolin is processed extensively in order to become value-added products used by consumers all over the world.

The process by which kaolin is turned into products for industrial applications is extensive, requiring large capital investments in equipment and technology. The journey from the mines of middle Georgia to the paper, rubber, paint or other industrial consumer involves many phases.

The mining and processing of kaolin begins with exploration. Geologists study the earth’s surface, research literature and other data to identify land with potential kaolin deposits.

Deposits of kaolin are located by drilling holes in the earth, which can range up to 200 feet in depth. When kaolin deposits are encountered, core samples of the deposits are extracted and sent to a laboratory for testing. Kaolin companies must drill 50 to 100 holes per every 100 acres to get a reasonable indication of the quality and size of the deposit. The cost of drilling and testing a single hole ranges from $1,000 to $1,500. Thousands of acres are drilled and thousands of feet of sample are tested to yield a handful of acceptable mining sites. The samples are analyzed to determine the quality and extent of the deposits.

The layers of earth above the kaolin are removed and the deposits – often far beneath the surface – are exposed with the help of heavy machinery, which remove as much as 100 feet or more of the earth or what the industry calls "overburden." This is a layer of earth that is removed for the purpose of mining the deposits. It is replaced once active mining of the deposit ends.

Since kaolin quality varies widely from deposit to deposit – and even within the same deposit – most companies operate more than one mine. This allows them to extend their reserves by blending crude clays from different deposits to produce products suitable for a variety of applications. Once mined, the crude kaolin is hauled to a stockpile, where the processing journey begins.

China Clay Producers Association
Lee Lemke
Executive Vice President
113 Arkwright Landing
Macon, Georgia 31210
Telephone 478-757-1211
Fax 478-757-1949
Email:
info@georgiamining.org

 

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