Egypt has a wealth of mineral resources, including over 70 commercially valuable raw materials, with kaolin being one of them. Various sources reported that kaolin in Egypt had satisfied the domestic demand for more than seven decades. In 2019, the country was among the largest producers of kaolin in Africa, followed by Algeria and Tanzania.
Market Trend of Egyptian Kaolin
Egypt has significant kaolin deposits in a number of locations. These include localities in Kalabsha, Red Sea Coast, and Sinai. In 1990, Egypt was able to produce around 440,000 metric tons of kaolin for ceramic industries only.
In the same period, kaolin production for white cement, alum, and paper industries amounted to 300,000, 150,000, and 128,000 metric tons annually. However, from 2011 to 2018, the annual average volume of Egyptian kaolin production was around 250,000 metric tons.
The decreasing volume of kaolin production has relevance to the mineral quality itself. According to various studies, the kaolin from Egypt is massive and hard. It’s also considered low grade that requires particular beneficiation in order to be used by manufacturers.
Domestic Demand for Egyptian Kaolin
Kaolin comes with a vast number of industrial applications, and more are continuously developing. Historically, ceramics were the initial use of kaolin, which is still the most well-known mineral used today.
Aside from ceramics, kaolin is widely used in the manufacturers of paint, paper, plastics, rubber, cosmetics, and many more. In Egypt, the country’s kaolin production is mainly utilized in the following sectors:
1. Ceramic Tiles
Kaolin is one of the primary raw minerals used in the production of ceramic tiles in Egypt. The reason is the mineral’s low content of titanium ions and iron that can elevate the products’ color. The country itself was the 10th largest ceramic tile producer on a global scale. According to data from Statista, Egypt produced roughly 285 million square meters of ceramic tile in 2020.
2. White Cement
Egypt’s cement industry is the oldest in the country. It has grown in capacity and size over the last three decades, with 16 manufacturers producing roughly 55 million tons of cement at an annual rate.
When added to cement mixtures, chemical properties in kaolin can provide a much more vibrant white coloring. Its fine particles can also make kaolin to be a much more eco-friendly substitute for cement. However, it’s unclear which deposits of kaolin in Egypt are used for domestic cement industries.
Apart from being used in ceramic tiles and white cement manufacturers, kaolin is also used in porcelain, sanitary, paper industries, pharmacognosy, heavy-clay goods, and many more. However, most of those industries barely use locally mined kaolin because its quality needs to meet the quality requirement of such manufacturers.
Egyptian Kaolin Localities
Kaolin is vastly present in three Egyptian regions: Red Sea Coast, Kalabsha near Aswan, and Sinai. Among all those areas, southwestern Sinai is Egypt’s primary kaolin deposit source. The kaolin in this region has the shape of lenses with low content of coloring oxides.
A coastal city in Sinai, Abu Zenima, only produces kaolin that is mainly used in the manufacturers of paper-based and ceramic industries. According to a study in 2018, kaolin in Abu Zenima showed the potential and viability to be used in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and other healthcare sectors.
Kaolin Trade Activities in Egypt
Exports make up nearly a quarter of the GDP in Egypt. Mineral products make up the majority of exports, along with oil (32% of the country’s total exports). Regarding kaolin exports, Egypt saw a decrease of approximately -2% in 2021; this is the second year the country has experienced an export fall.
However, kaolin exports increased significantly in value in 2021. From 2012 through 2021, the overall export value of Egyptian kaolin products climbed to around +4.5% at an average annual rate.
The main destinations for Egyptian kaolin exports are Spain, Turkey, and Italy. Spain is the biggest exporter of kaolin from this northern African country, making up a share of 55% of overall exports.
The Future of Egyptian Kaolin
According to IndexMundi, Egypt is the 19th largest kaolin production in the world, accounting for approximately 300,000 metric tons of world production. At a domestic level, the country’s kaolin reserves are considerably large and sufficient for various industries.
As explained above, specific Egyptian industries, like pharmaceutical and paper, prefer imported kaolin to locally mined ones. The reason is that local kaolin needs to have the required quality for those industries.
In order to boost the market, production, and domestic uses of kaolin in Egypt, the Egyptian government may work hand in hand with a kaolin private importer. This allows the government to comprehend the importance of producing quality kaolin that can meet domestic and international demand.