Mountain Freckles AKA Old Kaolin Mines

Next time you travel down Interstate 81/64 or U.S. Highway 11, scan the Blue Ridge Mountains southeast of Greenville. If you look carefully you may spot a large tan-colored, rectangular earthen mass. That mass is not a natural mound, but a tailings pile from the Cold Spring kaolin mines. For those non-geologists out there, tailings are leftover materials from breaking down chunks of minerals in rock, and kaolin is a white clay mineral that was used to make paper and porcelain.

In fact, an area about six miles southwest of Waynesboro was known back in the late 1880s as Porcelain, Virginia thanks to these kaolin mines. From 1918 to 1951, kaolin was actively mined in these parts for use as a filler in oil paints, fertilizer, rubber, and paper. A fire shut down the mine in 1951, but the tram tower footers along the conveyor pathway still exist as a reminder of past mining operations. Click here for more information about the minerals of the Cold Spring clay deposits.

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