Clay or 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. By 1961 exports were 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. Demand for Cornish clay diminished due to competition from cheaper to extract sources of the mineral in countries such as Brazil. Exports from Par sharply declined in 2000 and its capacity as a dock was ended in January 2008.
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.
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