In 2021, the size of the worldwide kaolin market was projected to reach approximately $4.24 billion. Also, a 3.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is anticipated between 2022 and 2030. Countries with kaolin reserves, like South Africa, have seen this market rise. However, the market trend of kaolin in South Africa is not insusceptible to the market’s ups and downs.

South African Kaolin Market Trends

Kaolin production in South Africa is ranked 30th globally and accounts for around 0.2% of the global output. Therefore, it’s understandable if the mineral is not yet regarded as one of the country’s top mineral commodities. The title always belongs to platinum metals, coal, iron ore, and gold, which are considered to have contributed more to the country’s economic growth.

However, that does not mean the kaolin market in South Africa has no value at any rate. In 2021, the production of kaolin in the country was growing steadily. This is all due to kaolin’s versatility as a non-metallic raw material. It is used as a primary or supplementary material in various manufacturing sectors.

As per reported in IndexBos, the kaolin market in South Africa grew by around 19% throughout 2021. However, there was a noticeable decrease in consumption overall. Kaolin consumption in the country peaked in 2012, yet it stalled out from 2013 to 2021. 

Uses of Kaolin in South Africa’s Industries

Despite the COVID-19 outbreak that led to economic disruption, the industrial sector in South Africa saw an increase of approximately 2.9% in 2022. A stable supply of raw resources is deemed necessary to support such growth. Kaolin is one of the many raw materials required in the following industries in South Africa:

1. Paper industry

South Africa plays a significant role in paper production both locally and internationally. Kaolin is used by paper industries to provide various levels of smoothness, brightness, printability, and gloss of the products. 

2. Cosmetic industry

South Africa is the largest cosmetic market in Africa that is expected to grow by approximately 3.94% between 2023 and 2027. Kaolin, known for its exfoliation and cleansing abilities, is massively used by the said industry.

Related: The Benefits of Washed Kaolin for Cosmetic Products

3. Rubber industry

Kaolin in South Africa, preferably calcined kaolin, is also widely utilized by the country’s rubber industries. In 2020, the country’s rubber export reached $7.78 million, making South Africa the 34th world’s top rubber exporter.

Related: The Innovation of Kaolin in Rubber Industry

Kaolin Localities in South Africa

According to a study by G.I.E Ekosse, there are 20 deposits of kaolin spreading across South Africa. As per the study, the deposits are located in seven provinces, namely:

  • Western Cape, 
  • Northern Cape,
  • Kwa-Zulu Natal, 
  • Mpumalanga, 
  • Eastern Cape,
  • North West,
  • Limpopo,
  • and Gauteng.

The province of the Western Cape may account for 55% of the country’s kaolin deposits. However, Grahamstown in Eastern Cape is known to be the largest one. In 1998, this area made up 55% of South Africa’s total kaolin production. The reason for that is that the white kaolinite mined in this region has excellent quality.

South Africa’s Kaolin Trade Activities

According to data from 2021, South African kaolin and other varieties of kaolinite clay exports increased by 26% over the year, reaching approximately 834 tons. The top three countries exporting the raw material include Zambia (around 446 tons), Zimbabwe (about 196 tons), and Mozambique (approximately 192 tons). 

In value terms, those top exporters made up 59% of South Africa’s kaolin exports. Other exporting countries, like Swaziland, Indonesia, Thailand, and Ghana, only accounted for 31%. In actuality, the overall exports showed a significant decrease. 

2018 saw the highest growth rate, with kaolin exports soaring by around 53%. Throughout the examined period, exports in 2013 were the highest period. However, from 2014 to 2021, South Africa’s kaolin exports were considerably lower.

The Future of South African Kaolin

South Africa has a significant mineral resource because of its geological conditions. Data from the country’s government showed that South Africa has unexploited mineral reserves that are estimated to be worth around $2.5 trillion. Kaolin is one of the many valuable minerals in the country that still needs to be fully tapped.

The COVID-19 outbreak is one of the reasons that slowed down the country’s kaolin market. Lack of mining equipment, poor conditions of construction sites, heavy machinery, and new restrictions are other reasons that hold back kaolin production.

By 2028, kaolin in South Africa is expected to be worth $490.2 million. In order to actualize it, the South African government may collaborate with foreign private companies, like PT Yudian Kawan Mineral, to import the mineral into the nation. Africa’s mineral market may therefore adapt to the kaolin market, increasing the country’s export potential.