Imerys

Clay district near Wheal Martyn Museum, photo courtesy of Imerys
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Clay district near Wheal Martyn Museum, photo courtesy of Imerys

Imerys is the world leader in adding value to minerals and is active in 47 countries through over 260 locations across the globe. The Company mines and processes minerals from reserves with rare qualities in order to develop solutions that improve its customer’s product performance and manufacturing efficiency.

The Group’s products have a great many applications in every day life including construction, personal care, paper, paints, plastics, ceramics, telecommunications and beverage filtration.

Imerys china clay operations in Cornwall currently produce approximately 1.2 million tonnes per annum. The operational area, to the north of St Austell, extends to an area of approximately 4000 hectares.

View of the Clay District, St Austell, photo courtesy of Imerys
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View of the Clay District, St Austell, photo courtesy of Imerys

Demand is dominated by the paper industry, which accounts for just under 50% of total sales from the UK. China clay performs two quite separate functions in the manufacture of paper, as a filler and as a coating pigment.

The ceramics industry is the second most important market sector. Main markets are in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Kaolin is used in the manufacture of whiteware ceramics where its main function is to confer whiteness to the ceramic body. Its major uses are in vitreous-china sanitaryware, tableware (earthenware, bone china and porcelain), wall tiles, electrical porcelain and glazes

Whenever industrial minerals are removed from the ground it is inevitable that the landscape will be altered. An ambitious programme of land reclamation and restoration is in place to improve the visual impact of our operational area.

The driving force behind the programme is to restore damaged land to a beneficial afteruse, predominantly of “wildlife” value. Therefore, heathland, woodland, acid grassland and pasture dominate the restoration process because these contribute to habitat diversity and UK national targets for the creation of bio-diversity landscapes.

Notable restoration achievements to date ( Autumn 2009) include;
• the creation of around 750 hectares of lowland heathland on former waste tips
• the restoration of over 400 hectares of new native broadleaf woodland and the conversion and management of over 460 hectares of existing woodlands
• the provision of new and improved access routes for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders

Blackpool Clay Trail Sign, near St Austell
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Blackpool Clay Trail Sign, near St Austell

Imerys’ land reclamation and restoration programme is ongoing, implementation will continue throughout the china clay area as sites become available following completion of their operational life.