Kaolin Ghosts

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  • Kaolin, the product of a 260 year old Cornish industry, has historically been used in the manufacture of porcelain and paper. Additional modern uses include paint, plastics, sealants and pharmaceuticals.
    The docks at Par were constructed in the 1820s and developed for mineral export between 1830 and 1840 alongside local competition from the ports at Charlestown, Pentewan and Fowey.
    Par had achieved notoriety by 1961 when Lloyds of London claimed it to be the busiest Port in the country, based on its area and tonnage handled; exports in excess of a million tonnes of clay per year. English China Clay, who had owned the lease to Par since 1947, purchased the freehold in 1964 and was in turn acquired in 1999 by Imerys, a French mining company.

    Although Cornish clay is of much finer quality than that of Europe, or much of the world, demand for it was diminished by competition from sources of the mineral that were geologically cheaper to extract, in countries such as Brazil. Exports from Par sharply declined in 2000 and its capacity as a dock (largely inactive since 2006) was ended in January 2008, leaving the deep harbour at Fowey to handle all sea exports.
    Other factors contributing to the decline of employment at Par include rises in energy prices and the increasing modernisation and automation of the remaining plant and processing works. This has severely affected the clay villages of the St Austell area. Imerys job cuts have led to the loss of between twenty percent and one third of all employment in one of the most deprived communities in the country.
    My photographic exploration of Par has the dual intention of documenting the site for posterity, and revealing traces left by the generations of workers who have occupied the space .