Mining bench in open-pit kaolin mine
Photo: M. Schatz

The name of the industrial mineral “kaolin”, whose primary constituent is the clay mineral kaolinite, is derived from the Chinese village "Gaoling". Up to the 18th century, it used to be called “terra alba” or “Passau earth” in Europe. In Austria, kaolin is one of the mineral raw materials that are free for mining.

Kaolin has been extracted in Austria for more than 200 years. Between 1960 and 1970 peak production volumes of up to 170,000 tonnes of raw kaolin were mined and then processed to kaolin, quartz sand as well as by-products.

Up to the 19th century kaolin was extracted in small pits in Austria. Under the name “Schwertberger Weißton” (Schwertberg white clay) kaolin was then already sold to stove builders and small ceramics companies in the area around Steyr and Linz. The white raw material was also used to whiten soldiers’ uniforms, reins and bridles.

Due to its physical properties (soft, plastic, white colour) kaolin is now used as a filler and carrier in paper, paints, rubber and plastics as well as in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Kaolin is also considered an important raw material for the manufacture of sanitary ceramics, porcelain and glass fibre. In addition, kaolin is used in the food and fertiliser industry.

The current production data for Austria and the world can be found in the Austrian Montan-Handbuch and in the international statistics on raw materials, WORLD MINING DATA.