• 6 hours PDVSA Booted From Caribbean Terminal Over Unpaid Bills
  • 8 hours Russia Warns Ukraine Against Recovering Oil Off The Coast Of Crimea
  • 10 hours Syrian Rebels Relinquish Control Of Major Gas Field
  • 11 hours Schlumberger Warns Of Moderating Investment In North America
  • 12 hours Oil Prices Set For Weekly Loss As Profit Taking Trumps Mideast Tensions
  • 13 hours Energy Regulators Look To Guard Grid From Cyberattacks
  • 14 hours Mexico Says OPEC Has Not Approached It For Deal Extension
  • 16 hours New Video Game Targets Oil Infrastructure
  • 17 hours Shell Restarts Bonny Light Exports
  • 18 hours Russia’s Rosneft To Take Majority In Kurdish Oil Pipeline
  • 1 day Iraq Struggles To Replace Damaged Kirkuk Equipment As Output Falls
  • 1 day British Utility Companies Brace For Major Reforms
  • 1 day Montenegro A ‘Sweet Spot’ Of Untapped Oil, Gas In The Adriatic
  • 1 day Rosneft CEO: Rising U.S. Shale A Downside Risk To Oil Prices
  • 2 days Brazil Could Invite More Bids For Unsold Pre-Salt Oil Blocks
  • 2 days OPEC/Non-OPEC Seek Consensus On Deal Before Nov Summit
  • 2 days London Stock Exchange Boss Defends Push To Win Aramco IPO
  • 2 days Rosneft Signs $400M Deal With Kurdistan
  • 2 days Kinder Morgan Warns About Trans Mountain Delays
  • 2 days India, China, U.S., Complain Of Venezuelan Crude Oil Quality Issues
  • 2 days Kurdish Kirkuk-Ceyhan Crude Oil Flows Plunge To 225,000 Bpd
  • 2 days Russia, Saudis Team Up To Boost Fracking Tech
  • 3 days Conflicting News Spurs Doubt On Aramco IPO
  • 3 days Exxon Starts Production At New Refinery In Texas
  • 3 days Iraq Asks BP To Redevelop Kirkuk Oil Fields
  • 3 days Oil Prices Rise After U.S. API Reports Strong Crude Inventory Draw
  • 4 days Oil Gains Spur Growth In Canada’s Oil Cities
  • 4 days China To Take 5% Of Rosneft’s Output In New Deal
  • 4 days UAE Oil Giant Seeks Partnership For Possible IPO
  • 4 days Planting Trees Could Cut Emissions As Much As Quitting Oil
  • 4 days VW Fails To Secure Critical Commodity For EVs
  • 4 days Enbridge Pipeline Expansion Finally Approved
  • 4 days Iraqi Forces Seize Control Of North Oil Co Fields In Kirkuk
  • 4 days OPEC Oil Deal Compliance Falls To 86%
  • 4 days U.S. Oil Production To Increase in November As Rig Count Falls
  • 4 days Gazprom Neft Unhappy With OPEC-Russia Production Cut Deal
  • 5 days Disputed Venezuelan Vote Could Lead To More Sanctions, Clashes
  • 5 days EU Urges U.S. Congress To Protect Iran Nuclear Deal
  • 5 days Oil Rig Explosion In Louisiana Leaves 7 Injured, 1 Still Missing
  • 5 days Aramco Says No Plans To Shelve IPO
Alt Text

World’s Biggest Miner Prepares For The EV Boom

The world’s top mining company…

Alt Text

Busting The Lithium Bubble Myth

Lithium demand continues to grow…

The Coming Crisis in Phosphate Supplies

The Coming Crisis in Phosphate Supplies

Phosphate is a mineral that is used in fertilizer to boost agricultural productivity. It is greatly responsible for the "green" revolution and the increased output of farms around the world. Unfortunately, the world will be coming to a point, if certain trends hold, where we will run out of phosphate. The mineral is widely used, but utterly unrecycled. Like fossil fuels, phosphate may come to a point where it is too costly to use, and world hunger may be the consequence.

Phosphate is an inorganic chemical mined from the earth. It typically consists of one phosphorus atom surrounded by oxygen atoms. The addition of phosphates can have a huge impact to an ecosystem. Like water and air, it is literally essential to life on Earth. On cropland, it can greatly boost yields. However, from there it usually drains into waterways. In freshwater and marine environments, it acts as a limiting nutrient, often causing eutrophication (oxygen deprived water).

The largest reserve of phosphate rock can be found in the country of Western Sahara, just south of Morocco. Once a Spanish colony, it is now controlled by Morocco. One of the reasons the Moroccans are so interested is thought to be the vast phosphate reserves. The mines are at Bou Craa which produces several million tons of phosphate rock each year. It gets transferred down a huge 150-kilometer long conveyor belt to the Atlantic port of El Ayoun.

Farmers around the world use about 170 million tons of phosphate every year to keep their soils fertile. One ton of phosphate is typically used for every 130 tons of grain. Fifteen percent of all phosphate comes from Western Sahara and Morocco. The other big producers are the US and China which each use up their own. This makes Western Sahara and Morocco the biggest players in the international phosphate trade. The biggest nations which rely on this trade are India and Brazil which may be starving otherwise.

According to the US Geological Survey, the world has 65 billion tons of known phosphate reserves, but only 16 billion tons that are economically viable to mine. Almost 80 percent are found in Western Sahara and Morocco. The US, with only 1.4 billion tons, may run out soon, causing alarm among agronomists. Academic researcher, Dana Cordell, of the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative, has predicted that we could reach "peak phosphorus" production by 2030.

There are no substitutes for phosphate. On the other hand, the other vital nutrient for plants, nitrogen, can be found from a number of sources. It can be fixed from the atmosphere thanks to German chemist Fritz Haber. Phosphate cannot be fixed from anything. It must be mined and the mines are going to run out. Unless a solution can be found, the long term consequences may be lower yield crops and a hungrier world.

By. David Gabel

Source: Environmental News Network




Back to homepage


Leave a comment
  • Anonymous on July 20 2011 said:
    Correction Mr David Gabel, there is no such a country by the name of western sahara. There is only Morocco! And it will always remain Moroccan. Go read the history of our great and ancient country!
  • Anonymous on July 20 2011 said:
    A good reason to use phosphate ores efficiently and wisely is, they have low but significant levels of uranium. Phosphorous is good for crops, and uranium is good for nuclear power.
  • Anonymous on July 21 2011 said:
    If you had checked the latest USGS report (2011) you will see that your information is out-dated (and even false. I will suggest that you study an IFDC-report from van Kauwenbergh regarding P-resources world-wide. :-)
  • Anonymous on July 21 2011 said:
    There is enough phosphate rock to last at least 300 years and one detailed analysis suggests possibly 1000 years. see www.peakphophorous.org
  • Anonymous on July 26 2011 said:
    I'm from Western Sahara, please help to stop the looting of the wealth that this topic is not enjoyed by the Sahrawi by colonization by the State of Morocco
  • Anonymous on December 09 2013 said:
    Unfortunetly there is a lot of money in phosphate and when you have lots of money you have lots of corruption. From the government down the ladder. Sorry Western Sahara I'm sure your place is as corrupt as it gets. It's time the hard working people around the world over throw their government

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News