Grace Specialty Vermiculite History
It is believed that the mineral, now known as vermiculite, was originally
observed in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1824. When exposed to a flame,
the mineral would expand into a variety of fanciful forms resembling small
worms. Because of this peculiar property, Thomas H. Webb gave it the name
vermiculite, or worm breeder.
For about 100 years after its discovery, vermiculite was not of commercial
significance. However, in 1923 a deposit in Libby, Montana, was developed
for commercial production, as was a deposit in the Enoree, South Carolina
(SC), region in 1946. Both these operations were started by the Zonolite
Company (Chicago, Illinois) and Grace Construction Products entered the
vermiculite business in 1963 with the acquisition of the Zonolite Company.
With this acquisition, Grace purchased both the Libby and Enoree mines
as well as the largest expanding facility in the United States at the
Due to declining demand, Grace chose to close the Libby facility in 1990.
As the first mine to close in Montana since the inception of the permitting
process in 1971, the project came under close scrutiny from the Mining
Industry as well as various regulatory bodies. With the removal of all
man made equipment and a comprehensive mine reclamation, the project was
awarded the 1st In Pursuit of Excellence Award by the mining industry
for efforts that exceeded standard practices of the day.
With the commercial development of vermiculite, Grace pioneered end-use
applications such as spray-on fire protection, lightweight insulating
concrete, various soil mixes and soil amendments, and animal feeds. Over
the years, Grace has sold these businesses to various parties that continue
to successfully use vermiculite and vermiculite-based technology.
Currently, Grace is a raw material supplier of both vermiculite concentrate
and expanded vermiculite products. All mining activities are in the Enoree,
SC area. Grace is the largest producer of vermiculite in North America
and the only vertically integrated supplier of both ore concentrate and
expanded vermiculite. Vermiculite expanding operations are located in:
Enoree, South Carolina
Ajax, Ontario, Canada
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Grace Specialty Vermiculite completed construction of
a state-of-the-art MicroLite® dispersion plant in Enoree, SC, in 1998.
MicroLite® is a chemically-exfoliated form of vermiculite with unique
gas barrier and anisotropic film characteristics.
In addition to vermiculite, Pompano, Ajax, Winnipeg, and Edmonton also
carry a wide range of expanded perlite products.