The BCCF - for information about calcium carbonate

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Calcium Carbonate

The World's Most Versatile Mineral

Calcium Carbonate Glossary


Chalk is a poorly compacted sedimentary rock predominately composed of compacted coccoliths (a lime-secreting algae).


Formed as limestone (see below) but the sedimentation process occurs in the presence of magnesium resulting in a dolomitisation process.


Limestone is also a sedimentary rock, but it is more compacted than chalk. It is formed from the remains of microscopic animals or foraminifera.


Marble is a coarse-crystalline, metamorphic rock, which is formed when chalk or limestone are recrystallised under conditions of high temperature and pressure.

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Uses of CaCO3 – 20th Century and Beyond

Early 1900's. Whiter than white...commercial toothpastes

Modern toothpaste was invented to aid in the removal foreign particles and food substances, as well as clean the teeth. When originally marketed to consumers, toothpaste was packaged in jars. Natural chalk was commonly used as the abrasive in formulations in the early part of the twentieth century but was almost entirely replaced by precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) by the 1930's. PCC remained the most widely used cleaning agent in tooth care until the 1960's.

Production of rubber shoes in the 1920's. The rubber formulation for shoes contained up to 40% whiting

1930's. The start of the modern filler industry.

As early as the 19th century fillers and reinforcing agents were incorporated into rubber and the first plastic materials.

Cork and wood flour were added to rubber floor-coverings and asbestos, scrap paper and wood fibres were added to bakelite. However, the addition of mineral fillers, such as calcium carbonate, to natural rubber didn't become standard practice until the 1930's.

1940's. Calcium in flour by Government order

It was decided that Calcium ("Chalk") should be added to British wartime bread after an outbreak of rickets in Dublin in 1940. At that time it was thought that a drop in calcium intake caused by the rationing of normal calcium-rich foods such as milk and cheese would cause more children to develop rickets, and some adults to develop the bone disease, osteomalacia. So in 1943 the Calcium Flour Order was passed making the addition of chalk (Creta praeparata) a mandatory flour additive.

The Calcium Flour Order made the addition of chalk (Creta praeparata) to bread mandatory.

1950's. The Age of Plastics and Paints

.The first thermoplastic was Polyvinyl Chloride. Originally developed in the 1870's it did not become a commercial reality until plasticisers were developed in the early 1930's. However it wasn't until the 1950's when production methods became cheaper and simpler that PVC use increased significantly. Plastics production in Western Europe increased 10 fold in a decade and the use of calcium carbonate grew with it.

The paint-making industry also began to change in the 1950's. Rapid industrial growth and high demands on the properties of surface coatings awakened interest in extenders. Paints were required for an ever-increasing range of industrial and household applications and the ability to tailor calcium carbonate to almost any desired particle size distribution and fineness made it be far the most important extender.

1960's/1970's. Calcium carbonate transforms the paper industry

Pilot paper coating plant

Calcium carbonate was not introduced into modern printing papers until around the mid 20th century and subsequently transformed paper making by prompting the switch from acid to neutral sizing. This opened the door to widely available GCC as well as PCC, both are now used as fillers in uncoated woodfree paper and are the most commonly used pigments in graphic papers and paperboard today.

Power stations now often use flue gas desuphurisation technology using limestone

Late 1980's. Calcium Carbonate for environmental protection

Flue gas desuphurisation technology introduced for major sulphur dixoxide (S02) emitters, like power plants. The technology has significantly reduced 'acid-rain' and employs a sorbent, usually lime or limestone, to remove sulfur dioxide from the gases produced by burning fossil fuels.

1995. Development of 'functional additives' for polyolefins

Prior to the 1990's the use of fillers in polyolefins was limited but that changed with the next generation of ultrafine, extremely consistent surface-treated calcium carbonates. The first 'mineral modifiers' based on calcium carbonates were developed for 'breathable' films for the booming hygiene market - particularly for diapers. These highly functional fillers increase productivity as well as improving the physical properties of the polyethylene (PE) film. Similar products are now used in PE and BOPP (Biaxially-orientated polypropylene) films for bags, printed films and packaging.

21st century and beyond

The calcium carbonate industry will be shaped by the 3 big E's dominating the early 21st century landscape: the Economy, Energy and Ecology. This will lead to the decline of some traditional markets and the emergence of new ones but what is certain is that calcium carbonate will continue to play a significant role in products used in everyday life.

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