Kaolin an important export for Middle Georgia 


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Kaolin clay, found abundantly in Middle Georgia, is used for high-quality graphics found on many packaged consumer products.


High-quality clay used for package coatings

As consumers around the world adhere to social distancing guidelines and are spending more time at home during the COVID-19 crisis, the consumption of packaged goods has seen an increase.

Essential to this production is the use of an abundant Georgia resource – kaolin clay.

The versatile mineral is used for the high-quality graphics found on many consumer products such as cereal boxes, shipping materials and microwavable food cartons.

Industry experts say recent numbers show an uptick in volumes likely boosted by the increased consumption of packaged goods.

Georgia Ports handled 7,553 twenty-foot equivalent container units of kaolin and China clay in February 2020 as compared to 7,339 TEUs in the same period last year, an increase of 3 percent (214 TEUs). For the fiscal year to date 2020, GPA has moved 58,760 TEUs of kaolin and China clay across its docks, an increase of 21 percent (10,300 TEUs) compared to the same period in FYTD2019.

Randy Mayberry, director of international sales for Thiele Kaolin, said his company has been designated a critical infrastructure employer so they’ve been able to maintain production at forecasted levels.

Thiele, one of the world’s leading sources of processed kaolin clay, has manufacturing facilities in North America and Europe.

“Thanks to the commitment of those in the port and logistics supply chains, we continue to see success stories such as the export of Georgia’s clay,” said GPA Chief Operating Officer Ed McCarthy. “This is happening due to the incredible teamwork demonstrated by our partners.”

About 40 percent of the kaolin mined in Georgia is used as a coating or filler for paper. Major exporters of kaolin clay through Georgia’s ports include Imerys, Active Minerals International, BASF, Thiele Kaolin Company and KaMin. 

Kaolin is used for adding a bright, glossy shine and smoothness of fibrous papers during the production process. Large particles of kaolin are also used as filler and coatings to improve the paper’s strength.

Mayberry said most of Thiele’s domestic customers supply producers of packaged goods, and the company is remaining busy with domestic and export shipments.

Jack Thomas, logistics manager for KaMin, agrees that the packaging sector of its business is continuing to perform well and also anticipates an incremental increase in thermal label products. 

KaMin, another leading supplier of premium fine and ultrafine kaolin clay, exports more than 60 percent of its product to 59 countries and 150 global ports, mainly through the Port of Savannah.

Allen Sexton, Thiele’s vice president of sales, marketing, and technical services, reiterated the importance of Georgia’s kaolin clay in the packaging industry.

“The high-quality print and finish you see on packaged goods is not possible without our clay,” Sexton said.