World Phosphate Rock Reserves and Resources

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Steven J. Van Kauwenbergh
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The amount of remaining.phosphate rock reserves and resources worldwide has become an issue of speculation.It has been hypothesized that phosphorus (phosphate rock) production will "peak" in 20033-2034 and then production will unavoidably decrease as the reserves are depleted Because phosphonas is one of the three elements critical to plant growth, dire consequences for world agricultural production and food security are linked to "peak phosphate." This study reviewed phosphate rock reserve and resource literature, past world reserve and resource estimates and the methodology used to perform reserve and resource estimates. The study is not a totally comprehensive analysis, it primarily focuses on the countries listed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in the Mineral Commodity Sanumaries series. The available literature was used to prepare a preliminary estimate of world reserves and resources. The literature review indicates the use of the terms "reserve" and "resource are not consistent on a worldwide basis. There is a great deal of published data available on phosphate rock deposits prior to 1990. Since then, however, there is a limited amount of detailed information on world phosphate rock reserves and resources available in conven- tional scientific literature. Useful information was located on websites, in trade magazines, papers presented at conferences and in papers or reports that have limited distribution and are generally not catalogued on commercial literature databases The search for phosphate rock deposits became a global effort in the 20th century as demand for phosphate rock increased. Development of deposits further intensified in the 1950s and 1960s. World production peaked in 1987- 1988 and then again in 2008 at over 160 million metric tons (mmt) of product. Phosphate rock mining has evolved over time and worldwide it relies on high volume and advanced technology using mainly open-pit mining methods and advanced transportation systems to move hundreds of millions of tons of overburden to produce hundreds of millions of tons of ore that are beneficiated to produce approximately 160 mmt of phosphate rock concentrate per year. Concentrate of suitable grade and chemical quality is then used to produce phosphoric acid, the basis of many fertilizer and non-fertilizer products. Previous estimates of phosphate rock reserves range from 15,000 mmt to over 1,000,000 mmt, while estimates of phosphate rock resources range from about 91.000 mmt to over 1,000,000 munt. Using the available literature, the reserves of various countries were assessed in terms of reserves of concentrate. The IFDC estimate of worldwide reserve is approximately 60,000 mmt of concentrate. The IFDC estimate of world phosphate rock resources is ap proximately 290,000 mmt. This figure includes the unprocessed ore of the IFDC reserve estimate. If estimates of potential phosphate rock resources are included, the total world resources of phosphate rock may be about 460,000 mmt. This resource estimate does not include estimates of phosphate reserves/resources from every country or known phosphate rock deposit in the world. Many countries are rather incompletely explored. In addition, there are many small phosphate deposits in the countries listed, as well as in other countries. Based on the data gathered, collated and analyzed for this report, there is no indication that a "peak phosphorus event will occur in 20-25 years. IFDC estimates of world phosphate rock reserves and resources indicate that phosphate rock of suitable quality to produce phosphoric acid will be available far into the future. Based on the data reviewed, and assuming current rates of production, phosphate rock concentrate reserves to produce fertilizer will be available for the next 300-400 years. It should be stressed that reserves are only proven or established over a planning horizon based on the amount of concentrate needed for a number of years. Reserves are not established on an infinite planning horizon. The world reserve of phosphate rock is a dynamic figure. The cost of phosphate rock is going to increase as lower-cost phosphate rock deposits are mined out and mining companies have to move more overburden, process lower grade ores, open new mines, employ increasingly expensive technology and use additional raw materials and processing media (such as water) to produce concentrates. When the price of phosphate concentrates increase, deposits that were marginally economic may become viable and new deposits will be opened. Some of these deposits may be in challenging environments and alternative mining methods will also be developed and used. The utilization of underground mining methods may become attractive in many countries if the price of phosphate rock is high enough. Vertical integration of phosphate rock mining and processing has occurred at numerous sites around the world over the past few decades Vertical integration of phosphate rock mining and processing may be a necessary component to compete in the world. phosphate fertilizer market when new deposits are developed. It must be stressed that this study contains a preliminary estimate of world reserves and resources. A collaborative effort by phosphate rock producers, government agencies, international organizations and academia will be required to make a more complete and accurate estimate of world phosphate rock reserves and resources. These stakeholders also should be involved in phosphate fertilizer production or use initiatives that may influence individual government or global economic, environmental and/or food security policies. No matter how much phosphate rock exists, it is a non-renewable resource. The amount of this resource that can be produced is based on its value to the current world agricultural system and for other uses. There should be a global effort to more effectively mine and process reserves/resources of phosphate rock and to utilize phosphate fertilizer and phosphate-containing waste as efficiently as possible, while keeping nutrients out of watersheds and the oceans. All of these efforts must be tempered and explored realizing that only those techniques or processes that are logistically, technically and economically feasible are likely to be adopted.
Phosphate fertilizers, Resources