CHINA CLAY giant Imerys is set to open its first new pit in nearly three decades, the Cornish Guardian has learned.
Next Tuesday, the company is due announce plans for its newest pit at Higher Moor, next to Littlejohns pit, close to the villages of Whitemoor and Stenalees.
The industry's illustrious past has shaped the villages and its communities for decades.
But the new pit is the first to be opened in 28 years and is believed to be large enough to house up to four of St Austell's White River shopping centres. Former employee, Cornwall councillor Jackie Bull, for Bugle, has welcomed the news as a major shot in the arm for St Austell and the Clay Country.
She said: "Whatever the details, this is really good news for the area and, hopefully, it will mean more employment."
Ken Rickard, 80, who worked for 40 years in minerals management in mid-Cornwall, said: "The area and the local community have certainly been built up and survived on the China Clay industry.
"Obviously, news that a new pit is going to open is good news for the area."
Imerys are remaining tight-lipped about the details until its official announcement on Tuesday.
Past investigations revealed the site, previously to have been a tin mining area, contained clay.
In 2006, Cornwall County Council granted permission for the excavation of top soil and subsoil for the extraction of clay, the grade of which remains a mystery.
It is believed the clay will be dry-mined and then transferred for processing at the adjacent Littlejohns pit, which is Europe's largest open cast mine.
Imerys has also been granted permission by the council to transfer the extracted China Clay between the two sites.
Permission to extract at Higher Moor runs until 2018.