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The mining methods in the recovery of this mineral are practically the same as any strip operation. The overburden is removed in advance of the mining operations. Overburden varies in depth up to 100 feet. The clay seam has an average thickness of from 12-15 feet, although in some localities it is as much as 30 feet thick.
Mining methods have advanced as earth-moving equipment developed. At one time, the conventional method of overburden removal was by locomotive and dump cars, hauling from power shovel to dump area. This method required a large crew to clear the tracks as well as shift and realign them. Several operations use this system in bringing the clay from the mine to the mill for wet processing.
Perhaps the first development from this stage was the belt conveyor and stacker to replace the train haul with its subsequent unloading crew. Such a unit was installed at several operations with considerable success. A series of 36" belt conveyors 500 feet long feeding a stacker were placed parallel to the overburden wall and mounted on sets of track at right angles to the conveyor. This long conveyor was fed by feeders loaded with power shovels. The feeders were also truck mounted, and moved along the conveyor as the face of the overburden was advanced by the shovel. The stacking conveyor was about 100 feet long and set at a vertical angle of about 20 degrees. This unit was mounted on caterpillar treads to move parallel to a section of conveyor termed the dump conveyor. The dump conveyor, some 300 feet long was provided with a tripper to feed the material on to the stacker at any particular location along the dump conveyor. A bulldozer was used to level the stacks as the dumping progressed. As shorter hauls and less overburden were encountered, this unit was replaced by the tractor-pan operation.
As haulage became longer and the overburden increased, rubber mounted equipment came into use. The latest equipment of this type is the Euclid Earthmover. This unit is a twin-engine, six-wheel scraper, which is capable of loading itself from the solid bank in overburden as well as in clay. It has an average struck capacity of 18 cubic yards and heaped capacity of 24 cubic yards. It moves with a full load at 30-35 miles per hour. It is equipped with torque converters and hydraulic drive so that either motor can be operated individually, or both motors simultaneously. These units load, dump, and level the piles while moving, so there is no idle time during round trips. The only down time is for greasing, refueling, and maintenance.
ECC International’s kaolins are used in a wide variety of ceramic applications, from high quality tableware and sanitaryware to electrical porcelain, tiles and glazes. There are some less obvious uses including glass fibre, white cement and refractory insulation bricks.
The kaolin deposits of South West England were formed by the hydrothermal granites almost 300 million years ago.
The process which converted the hard granite into the soft matrix found in kaolin pits is known as “kaolinisation”. The quartz and mica of the granite remain relatively unchanged whilst the feldspar is transformed into kaolinite. The refining and processing of the fine fraction of the kaolinised granite yields predominantly kaolinite with minor amounts of mica and fine quartz.
Our existing deposits have been mined for over 200 years, and ECC International has been extracting and refining the kaolinite for over 50 years. We now have over 20 kaolin pits in this area, with the largest extending over 120 hectares.
Our mining process begins with high pressure water jets which blast the kaolinised matrix.
The resulting clay suspension then passes through a series of mechanical systems to remove any unwanted sand and mica before being pumped into large tanks where it is allowed to settle and thicken. Then excess water is drained off, leaving a high density slurry which is pumped on for blending.