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Information @ a Glance

General

  • Phosphate rock or phosphorite is a general description applied to several kinds of rock which contain significant concentrations of phosphate minerals.
  • The two main sources for phosphate are guano, formed from bird droppings, and rocks containing concentrations of the calcium phosphate mineral, apatite.
  • Phosphate rock can be any rock or sediment with sufficiently high concentrations of some form of the mineral fluorapatite.
  • Phosphorus-rich rock is deposited in a body of water in which there is no oxygen; this is called an anaerobic environment.

Process

  • Phosphate rock is mined, beneficiated, and either solubilized to produce wet-process phosphoric acid, or smelted to produce elemental phosphoric acid or smelted to produce elemental phosphorus.
  • Phosphate rock is formed in oceans in the form of calcium phosphate, called phosphorite.
  • The phosphatic rock is characterised by filaments of wavellite, turquoise and quartz.
  • Almost all phosphate rock is mined by strip mining.

Application

  • Commercial phosphate rock is usually sedimentary in origin and is used primarily as a plant nutrient.
  • Several scientists the world over have been trying to develop1,2 low-cost phosphatic fertilizers. Indian scientists were successful in testing low-grade phosphate rocks35 for direct application.
  • Nitrates and phosphates are the main agronutrients mined by current sub-Saharan small scale agricultural practices.
  • Biofertilisers produced with phosphate rock (PR) plus sulphur (S) inoculated with Acidithiobacillus can promote plant growth and increase available P in tropical soils.

Technology

  • Technically and economically feasible beneficiation technology is used for processing dolomite pebbles which is needed to recover phosphate value.
  • The Florida phosphate industry has been practicing the current flotation technique for concentrating phosphate minerals for half a century.
  • Flotation is one of the most efficient techniques applied for phosphate upgrading. Desliming of flotation feed is a critical pre-request step for successful phosphate/gangue separation by flotation.

Market

  • The United States is the world's leading producer and consumer of phosphate rock.
  • China, the United States and Morocco are the world's largest miners of phosphate rock.
  • Most of the U.S. and world phosphate rock resources are widely distributed marine phosphorite deposits.
  • Total capacity of the phosphate rock industry in the U.S. is 56 million tons, with mines currently operating at about 90 percent of capacity.
  • There are markets such as those of Malaysia and Brazil, where directly applied phosphate rock makes good sense from an agronomic or economic point of view.

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