Phosphate Rock

Gieseke, E. W. ; Pothier, O. E. ; Redeker, Immo H.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 18
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
Phosphate rock is the primary source of phosphorus, an element necessary to all forms of life--plant, animal, and human. While phosphorus finds many uses in everyday life, it is an irreplaceable ingredient in all complete plant foods. With the present need for intensive farming, the fertility of the soil can be maintained only by external additions supplied by mines or other sources. A major consideration in any mining operation is to establish the economic and ecological impact of the development on the local population as well as the national interest. The Commodity Data Summaries, as published by the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM), is a ready reference concerning the importance of phosphate to the national and local interest. The summary of domestic and world pro¬duction is given in Table 1. During 19722 the demand for marketable phosphate rock exceeded the supply in the United States and the rest of the world. Domestic and world reserves are more than adequate to meet furture demands. Phosphate rock prices firmed and export prices increased, reflecting the change from oversupply to a shortage of phosphatic fertilizers. Demand is expected to exceed supply through 1973. New fertilizer plant capacity planned for 1973-74 will increase the production of phosphate rock by more than 5 million tons in the United States. Morocco and Spanish Sahara are scheduled to increase their production to 18 and 3 million tpy, respectively, within 2 to 3 years. The domestic phosphate rock production for 1972 was 40.8 million tons and 1973 was 42.1 million tons.' Industry, with government-supported programs, will emphasize restoration of mined land and solution of the colloidal slime disposal problem in Florida. The foregoing information comes by courtesy of The Division of Nonmetallic Minerals of the U.S. Bureau of Mines, January 1973. The summary gives a great deal of information but does not give a complete picture. There are many supporting industries which contrib¬ute to the area in which the mines are located. The figures shown in Table 1 deal with concentrates. To produce such concentrates many more tons of waste overburden and ore must be moved. Because of the competitive nature of the phosphate rock industry, data on concentration ratios not only are difficult to obtain but also are not for publication by companies. The concentration ratios vary from one mine to the next in Florida as well as in Tennessee and the western United States. To produce 42.4 million tons of phos¬phate rock in the United States required moving about 350 to 400 million tons of material. Domestic Industry. In 1972 some 26 firms and the Tennessee Valley Authority produced phosphate rock, with several firms produc¬ing from more than one mine. The distribution of marketable phos¬phate rock production was: Florida and North Carolina 82%; Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming 13%; and Missouri and Tennessee 5%. The value of this production was $223 million. The principal consuming classifications were: agriculture 75%, soaps and detergents 5%, plating and polishing 3%, animal feed supplements 4%, and miscellaneous applications 13%. Over 5,000 firms processed end-prod¬ucts for agricultural purposes. Uses of Phosphate Rock. The tendency in the United States has been to produce more phosphoric acid by the wet process, while the production of electric furnace phosphorus, triple superphosphate, and ordinary superphosphate has been on the decline. Exports of phosphate rock have been on the increase for several years and in 1971 reached 33% of total production. However, export sales of phos¬phate rock are expected to decline in the years ahead, both in total tons of sales and in percentage of production as domestic sales increase (see Table 2). The description and chemistry involved in the production of phos¬phate fertilizers is too complicated to be presented here. The Waggaman13 book is a very thorough reference on the subject involv¬ing production, utilization, and chemistry. The various operations generally have chemical plants near the dry plants or ship to associated chemical plants for further processing. Wet rock, dry rock, and ground dry rock of various grades are sold. In addition various grades of calcined phosphate rock, including defluorinated phosphate rock for animal food supplements, are pro¬duced. Various grades of phosphoric acid, superphosphate, triple suerphosphate, as well as diammonium phosphate, are produced. These products are available from the various producing compa¬nies listed in the text. For prices and specifications the producing companies should be contacted.
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