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Georgia Kaolin All Day Long

The page you are reading right now is filled and coated with kaolin to improve the sheet’s gloss, smoothness, brightness, and opacity. Your porcelain coffee cup this morning was primarily kaolin, and the toothpaste you used had kaolin in it. Kaolin is in the paint on your walls, the asphalt shingles on your roof, and the rubber in your floor mats.

Kaolin is a white, clay-like mineral found throughout the world, but in no other area is it as pure and uncontaminated as it is in Georgia. The clay deposits here are so good, in fact, that it is estimated that as much as 80 percent of all the kaolin used in the United States comes from this band through the fall line region of Georgia, where the piedmont reaches the coastal plain from Augusta to Macon to Columbus. More then 8 million tons of kaolin is mined every year in the state, generating $1 billion.

To be mined profitably, kaolin deposits must be within 100 to 150 feet of the surface. When it is, men and machines remove the overburden to reveal the white deposits. After the kaolin has been removed, the overburden is replaced.

W. F. Jackson has been working with the kaolin companies for decades, removing overburden so the clay can be mined, then doing reclamation work. He runs anywhere from eight to fifteen crews. “We move about 12 million yards a year,” Jackson says. “Our highest year was 22 million yards, but the kaolin industry has shrunk with the economy.”

Jackson bought his first Cat® 773 haul truck in 1993 and figures he’s bought thirty or thirty-five more since then. “I’ve moved more dirt for the kaolin companies than anybody in the last fifty years,” he says.

Rader Sellers started his company in 2000, after working with his father in the kaolin business, and he is passionate about his work. Sellers Construction removes overburden. “Ours is a volume-driven business,” Rader says. “Our goal is to move 2,500 yards per day per truck safely. Safety in our industry has become as essential and primary as the pricing itself. Liability doesn’t stop with me. It carries over to company we’re working for. They’re looking for company with safety policies that are carried out. We’ve had zero citations in three years.

“The equipment we run is newer, more dependable, and safer. It comes with scales that tell us how much dirt we’re putting on trucks and cameras that tell us what’s behind us.”

Sellers Construction runs about 250 pieces of equipment, and 75 percent of it is Caterpillar. “They make the best product and the most reliable product,” Rader says. “If there’s an issue with that product, they stand behind their service and parts. There is very little down time with any Cat®-related equipment.”

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