Kaolin is a widely-used if commonly overlooked mineral, widely seeing use in paper, rubber, paint, high-end ceramics, fibreglass, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

What even fewer people realise is that it has the potential for significant growth due to its increasing use in high tech applications.

Kaolin is find an important niche in coatings and polymers, as an additive in concrete and as feedstock for high purity alumina (HPA).

Highly refined metakaolin, which is produced using kaolin, has the potential to improve the performance of concrete, reduce costs and more importantly reduce emissions – a potentially significant point given that it concrete is responsible for some 8% of global carbon emissions.

There is also growing use of HPA, which is used in LEDs, sapphire glass products and in lithium-ion batteries to improve safety and performance – though this is a separate topic all in itself.

Considering these traditional and emerging applications, it is no wonder that ResearchAndMarkets.com believes that the global kaolin market will see a compound annual growth rate of 3.7% from 2022 to 2030 and was estimated to be worth an estimated US$4.34bn in 2021.

ASX small cap kaolin plays

Here are some of the companies which are either focused on kaolin or for which kaolin commands a significant portion of their attention.

Andromeda Metals (ASX:ADN)

Andromeda is focused on advancing its flagship Great White project where it recently received approval for the Program for Environment Protection and Rehabilitation (PEPR) from South Australia’s Department for Energy and Mining.

The PEPR permits the processing of up to 300,000tpa of ore to produce up to 150,000tpa of halloysite-kaolin products.

With regulatory approvals in place, the company is now focused on securing the funding required and offtake agreements to underpin development and future expansion.

Great White currently has JORC Ore Reserves of 15.1Mt within a broader resource of more than 110Mt.

During the March 2023 quarter, the company carried out follow-up drilling at the Chairlift and Halfpipe prospects.

The drilling at Chairlift was carried out to further delineate the exploration target of between 80Mt and 120Mt while half of the 24 aircore holes drilled at Halfpipe identified a minimum of 20% halloysite – a rare derivative of kaolin.

Andromeda is also continuing research and development into new emerging product and nanotechnology opportunities including work to produce HPA based on an innovative process flowsheet to produce both HPA and smelter grade alumina.

Additionally, the company has progressed the staged, scalable approach to developing the project with Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) and supporting construction plans for Stage 1A developed in readiness to progress with early-stage site preparation works.

Lanthanein Resources (ASX:LNR)

The company holds the Koolya project in Western Australia where first pass aircore drilling completed during the December 2022 quarter intersected widespread kaolin of varying thickness topping up at 30m from a depth of just 4m.

Analysis completed on samples taken from the program confirmed the presence of ultra-high bright kaolin with very low levels of deleterious elements at the project.

Further analysis will be carried out to better quantify the presence of kaolinite and halloysite.

Lanthanein also plans to carry out further infill and step-out drilling in the second and third quarters to assist with the generation of a resource estimate in the fourth quarter.

Oar Resources (ASX:OAR)

Oar continues to pursue potential joint venture partners for its Gibraltar halloysite-kaolin project in South Australia.

All material from the aircore program conducted in 2021 was returned to Perth for an independent appraisal of the material’s suitability to be used for further testwork to determine the halloysite and metakaolin potential of the project.

Pinnacle Minerals (ASX:PIM)

In the March quarter, the company was granted the Tammin kaolin project in Western Australia where historical exploration identified over 2km of kaolinite strike with an ISO brightness of more than 80.

Notable results include 25m of kaolin at average ISO brightness of 85.9 from 3m and 17m of kaolin at average ISO brightness of 86.8 from 4m.

This adds to the company’s existing White Knight and Camel Lake kaolin projects in South Australia which have a long history of exploration and drilling for uranium and base metals as well as mineral sands respectively.

White Knight is adjacent to Oar Resources’ Gibraltar high-grade kaolinite and halloysite project while Camel Lake surrounds Andromeda’s 100Mt halloysite project of the same name.

Suvo Strategic Minerals (ASX:SUV)

Kaolin producer Suvo recently signed an agreement to sell up to 500t of hydrous kaolin to Qingdao Minglang New Materia.

It also received the first purchase order from C&D Logistics Group covering up to 800t of hydrous kaolin.

These orders, which achieved a significant price premiums, follow the successful completion of the upgrade and optimisation of its Pittong processing plant.

This work increased the nameplate processing capacity of the plant to be about 60,000tpa under certain conditions, which will more than double kaolin production, reduce operating costs and lift EBITDA.

At Stockhead we tell it like it is. While Lanthanein Resources and Pinnacle Minerals are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.