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What Is Phosphate Rock And Where Do I Use It?

  • Phosphate rock is the main anthropogenic source of phosphorus (chemical symbol P) and is in effect an “indicator” of the phosphorus in different forms (mineral, organic) used in agriculture (fertilizers, animal feed, human food) and industry (including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, batteries, electronics). One of the uses of phosphate rock is to produce “Phosphorus”, but this accounts for probably < 0.5% of consumption of mined phosphate rock globally, so a distinction should be made.

  • Around 90% of global phosphate rock is used to produce fertilisers, and a further 7% goes to animal feedleaving <5% going to industrial and chemicals (including food additives, pharmaceuticals, and applications via “Phosphorus” (P4)).

Where is Phosphate Rock Produced?

  • The global producers of phosphate rock are China with 44%, Morocco 14%, Uzbekistan 10%, Russia 7% and Jordan 4%. The EU imports around 82% of its phosphate rock consumption, with the rest being supplied by its only operational phosphate rock mine in Finland.

  • However, this is not the full picture, since the EU also imports "phosphate rock" in food and feed products (eg. soy for animal feed).

  • The global market for phosphate rock is expected to become increasingly dependent on Morocco, as reserves in other countries are depleted in the coming years (Kasprak 2016). 

Phosphate Rock Global Market.

  • The global supply of phosphate rock is thus contingent upon the geographic locations of key deposits, notably in China and Morocco. 

  • Global demand for phosphate rock is overwhelmingly driven by its applications in agriculture for fertilisers and animal feed. Current yields of global food production are in fact dependent on mined phosphate rock to produce fertilisers.

  • ​The global market for phosphate rock is expected to become increasingly dependent on Morocco, as reserves in other countries are depleted in the coming years (Kasprak 2016) and the North African country holds around of the 70% known reserves worldwide.

Specific Issues for Phosphate Rock

  • There are no substitutes for P in biological organisms, so no replacement for phosphate rock in the production of mineral fertilisers (ESPP, 2019).

  • All the producers of phosphate in the world need high grade phosphate rock to produce fertilizer, feed and food phosphate. The main issue is that today, the reserves of high grade rock are depleting and are held by four or five big suppliers outside Europe. Low supply combined with high demand means a price increase.

  • The full dependency of Europe for its phosphate, the depleting of the reserve calls for new technology able to use alternative sources of phosphates (ashes from sewage sludge incineration “Urban mines”, low grade rock phosphate).

  • Ecophos has the technology to use the low grade phosphate, but also to close the loop by using the ashes coming from the sewage sludge incinerators.

  • We need new European legislation concerning the incineration of the sewage sludge. The sewage sludge should be mono-incinerated and not co-incinerated with the household waste in order to close the loop.


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