Geological Sources

Today’s phosphate fertilizers typically source its phosphorous from phosphate rock extracted from naturally occurring mineral deposits, of which over 80% is from marine sedimentary mineral deposits, with the remainder coming from igneous deposits.

The earth's crust contains an average of about 0.27 percent P205, most of which occurs in species of apatite. Minable concentrations of phosphate, containing from 5 to 35 percent P205, are formed in all phases of the phosphate cycle. Primary deposits include igneous apatites, sedimentary phosphorites, and guano; secondary deposits form from each of these as the result of weathering. The vast majority of chemical fertilizers are produced from sedimentary phosphorites.

The United States Geological Survey has estimated that the world produced approximately 220 million tonnes of rock phosphate in 2015, of which over 150 million tonnes was produced in just three countries: China, the United States, and Morocco. Phosphate rock reserves are even more concentrated geologically, with Morocco estimated to hold over 70% of global reserves. 

2015 Global Phosphate Production

Source: USGS

2015 Global Phosphate Rock Reserves

Source: USGS

Chemical phosphate fertilizer manufacturing plants typically require the phosphate rock they buy to have a P2O5 grade of 28% or more. Since most phosphate rock deposits have a lower average natural grade, the ore that is extracted from the deposits is typically upgraded into a phosphate rock concentrate before being shipped or processed. The upgrading process is often referred to as beneficiation, and usually involves washing, separation, flotation and concentration.


Fertilizer Use

Approximately 90% of all phosphate rock is consumed annually in the production of fertilizers. The manufacturing process varies depending on the type being produced and can involve the conversion to phosphoric acid as an intermediate step, mainly for the production of ammonium phosphate fertilizers.

Chemical Fertilizers: Phosphate ore from mineral deposits is now mostly processed into the chemical fertilizers that are commonly used by farmers around the world. Rock containing 30 percent or more P2O5 is generally required in acidulation (acid treatment), which typically produces phosphoric acid, which can be used directly as a fertilizer or can be further processed to a wide variety of products, including single superphosphate (SSP), triple superphosphate (TSP), and ammonium and potassium phosphates including Diammonium phosphate (DAP) and Monoammonium phosphate (MAP)

DAPR: Relatively small amounts of the phosphate rock mined globally today is used directly as a fertilizer referred to as direct application phosphate rock (DAPR); but for specific crops on acid soils in tropical or subtropical regions this may be the most efficient means of application. However, only a relatively small proportion of phosphate rocks are deemed reactive phosphate rock (RPR) suitable for such direct application. Sechura phosphate rock as found on GrowMax’s concessions is recognized as a highly reactive phosphate rock suitable for direct application, where soil, crop and market conditions allow.


Global Phosphate Consumption by Region (P2O5 nutrient basis)

Source: FAO

Non-Fertilizer Uses

Multiple sources suggest that 10-15% of global phosphate rock production is used in livestock and poultry feed supplements, pesticides, detergents, water treatment chemicals, food additives and metal surface treatments.

However, although there are limited sources of good statistics on these non-fertilizer phosphate markets. global or regional feed phosphate trade, production, or consumption, GrowMax’s own market research suggests that the estimate of 10-15% of total phosphate being consumed as feed phosphate is potentially a significant under-estimate of the total demand for feed phosphates (primarily MCP and DCP), in a world that is seeing increasing demand for animal protein. In the Peruvian and Ecuadorian markets especially, our market research suggests that the feed phosphate market may represent as much as 50% of total current phosphate demand (driven by a combination of cattle, poultry and aquaculture feed demand), making it a significant potential alternative or complementary option for commercialization of our rock phosphate resources. 

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