Do You Know Where Your Chalk Comes From?

Magnesite mine in China

Magnesium Carbonate is made from magnesite, a mineral mined from the Earth. Currently over 70% of all magnesite is mined in China. While the CCP has recently started cleaning up the magnesite mining industry it remains a significant source of local pollution and like all mining it is pretty energy intensive & most of the energy used in the process comes from petroleum.

The local impact of mining is best illustrated in the picture at the top of this article. This is a satellite view of the region around Haicheng in China. This is where your magnesium carbonate probably comes from. The shocking thing about this image is that those white peaks are not pristine snow-covered mountain-tops but heavily polluted magnesite mines.

The good news is that the climbing industry is becoming aware of the issue and is slowly moving away from mined magnesium carbonate. While magnesite mined in Europe tends to be cleaner due to the stronger regulatory framework, the environmental impact inherent in mining remains.

One promising alternative is to switch to a Magnesium Carbonate production process that uses synthesised magnesium carbonate. While still energy-intensive, at least the energy used in the process can be sourced from renewable sources, which is not possible for mined chalk.

One additional advantage of synthesised chalk is that it tends to contain far less impurities and there is also less moisture captured inside the chemical structure, which means better friction.

The best synthesis pathways use the toxic byproduct of existing desalination plants to create magnesium carbonate. Such a desalination-based process turns seawater into drinking water, salt & magnesium carbonate.

We’re switching to synthesised chalk for all of our liquid chalks in summer 2021.

Image by Google Earth