China Clay Area: Home

The China Clay Area around St Austell has always held a fascination for me, but I have never had the chance to explore. In recent years I have made a few contacts and had the chance to wander the vast wasteland of pits and dumps.
The following pages mainly contain images taken on private land. All my visits have been arranged through the proper channels, with Health and Safety Rules being observed at all times.                                                           China Clay Area

My thanks go to: Huw Eriksson for all the weekends he gave up for me last year, and to Matt Cheeseman for arranging a very interesting afternoon for me and Tracy.

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The skyline around St Austell is dominated by the huge peaks of China Clay Sky Tips. These are known as the Cornish Alps, they are the visible remains of the vast Kaolin deposits that were initially exploited in the early C19th. These man made mountains are the remains of the processing cycle. This produced five tonnes of waste containing mainly quartz and sand to every tonne, of refined China Clay. In the following years the business boomed with many pits employing seven thousands workers who produced 65,000 tonnes of China Clay (Kaolin) every year.
It was mined by spraying the walls of the pits with high pressure water hoses, a technique which is still used today.
By the early C20th Cornwall was producing approximately 1 million tonnes every year which was around half of the world’s China Clay requirements. Exports went all over the world from harbours such as Charlestown.
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Today Imerys, who purchased English China Clay in 1999 still operate in several pits employing around 2000 staff. The UK is still the world’s third largest producer after the USA and Brazil.  In the modern world Kaolin still has a wide variety of uses in: Paints, Rubber, Plastics, Sealants, Animal Feed and in the Pharmaceutical industry. The waste products are now used in concrete and building blocks.

China Clay Area

The vast Littlejohns China Clay pit, operated by Imerys.

Parkandillack Engine House Gallery