Ethiopia deserves its title as the land of plenty for its abundant mineral resources throughout the vast and varied landmass. According to a study conducted by Swedish Geological AB, the country has 23 minerals, with kaolin being one of them. However, kaolin in Ethiopia is as untapped as its other industrial minerals.  

Ethiopia’s Kaolin Market Potential

The kaolin market at a global scale is projected to have rapid growth from 2022 to 2029. By 2029, the market is estimated to reach roughly $7,480 million, as stated in the Data Bridge Market Research analysis.

The kaolin market in Africa and the Middle East is also expected to experience significant growth. According to the same source, the kaolin market in this region is projected to grow to roughly $479 million from 2022 to 2029. 

The primary factor that boosts the demand for kaolin is global construction activities. Other industries, like cosmetics and pharmacognosy, are also increasingly using this mineral as their products’ raw material.

Seeing those market potentials, Ethiopia has a chance to compete in the international kaolin market. However, the kaolin deposits in the country have yet to be exploited. If only Ethiopia could fully tap into this kaolin mining sector, it would benefit the country’s development.

Potential Uses of Ethiopian Kaolin

Kaolin is a white non-metallic mineral that is versatile enough to be used for various products. These include ceramic, pottery, paper coating, paint, rubber, medicinal products, and many more.

However, not all types of kaolin have the quality that can meet the requirements of those industries. Kaolin in Ethiopia, for example, is the only deposit in the Bombowha region that was found to be suitable for ceramic industries.

A study published in ScienceDirect reported that Bombowha kaolin is available on kaolinized granites and pegmatites in metamorphic rocks that have been deformed. Another kaolin deposit in the Kombolcha region appears inadequate as a raw material of fine ceramics.

However, further study still needs to be performed to fully explore the industrial potential of kaolin in the country. After all, Ethiopia has a number of industries that will benefit from the domestic production of kaolin. The said industries include agriculture, construction, paper, ceramic, and rubber.

Potential Deposits of Ethiopian Kaolin

Kaolin mining survey in Ethiopia has been conducted since 2015. China Communications Construction Company Ltd. has been granted a first-of-its-kind survey license by the Ethiopian Ministry of Mines.

The survey resulted in the discovery of eight regions that have potential kaolin deposits. The said regions are Amhara, Debretabor, Hadiya, Hosaena, Oromia, and Amhara. The latter is believed to have reserves for quality kaolin, particularly in the town of Kombolcha.

Kaolin amounts in other regions in Ethiopia are currently unknown. The primary reason for this is the insufficient research on the said geological locations. In spite of that, many scientific studies have tapped into the chemical properties of Ethiopian kaolin available in several localities. The studies showed the industrial potential of this white clay mineral.

Kaolin Trade Activities in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is indeed a country that is rich in minerals. Out of all minerals available in the country, gold is the only mineral massively shipped abroad. In 2020, the country exported roughly $198 million worth of gold, making it the world’s 82nd largest gold exporter. What about other minerals like kaolin? The export market of this clay mineral is currently unavailable.

As stated in data published by Volva Grow Global, industries in Ethiopia rely on kaolin imported from other countries, such as China, Pakistan, and India. The said industries are mostly ceramic, rubber, and cement manufacturers operated by Chinese private and state companies.

The Future of Ethiopian Kaolin

Kaolin deposit in Bombowha was once one of the leading suppliers to domestic ceramic industries. However, the requirement for the mineral has dropped to zero. What’s much worse is that there are no reports regarding the availability of active kaolin mines in the country. As a matter of fact, the country has a vast amount of kaolin reserves (roughly 20 million metric tons).

Unfortunately, the kaolin deposits in Ethiopia remain wholly untapped to this day. Lack of marketing, limited knowledge of the mineral, and inadequate research are the reasons behind the country’s underdeveloped kaolin mineral sector.

In order to tap the potential of kaolin in Ethiopia for industrial purposes, the government ought to collaborate with private companies to bring kaolin into the country. That way, the government will be better able to fully tap local kaolin. Not only to meet domestic demand but also the global demand for kaolin.