Phosphate minerals are minerals containing tetrahedrally co-ordinated anions. The phosphate group of minerals includes triphylite, monazite, pyromorphite, vanadinite, erythrite, lazulite, turquoise, autunite, carnotite apatite group, etc. Phosphate minerals of apatite group are generally mined from phosphate rocks. Main apatite mineral types include, Collophane, Francolite, and Dahlite. Other phosphate bearing minerals of economic significance are monazite, turquoise, and pyromorphite. Phosphate deposits are classified in three main types namely, marine sedimentary phosphorite, apatite-rich igneous rocks and guano accumulations. Agriculture is the largest end-user industry of phosphate minerals. Phosphate minerals are also used in food preservatives, animal feed, cosmetics, fungicides, ceramics, metallurgy and water treatment. Production of fertilizers is the major application for phosphate containing minerals. Phosphate minerals are generally mined by surface mining. After removal of ore from the ground the second stage of mining is the beneficiation process where the ore is separated by using various chemicals reagents in order to extract pure minerals.
Phosphorus is one the major nutrients required by plants. Majority of the phosphate production is used for the production of fertilizers. Growing global population has translated to growing demand for fertilizers for crop production. Fertilizers being the major application of phosphate minerals the growth in world population are expected to further increase the demand for phosphorus across the globe. There has been a growing demand for fertilizers especially from the emerging economies of Asia Pacific such as China and India. The growing population of these economies has resulted in higher fertilizer consumption and hence high demand for phosphate minerals. The demand for fertilizers from Latin American countries such as Brazil, Argentina is expected to witness strong growth in the near future. Phosphate minerals are also used in animal feed, baking powder, as an additive in beverage and pharmaceutical industries. The industrial uses of phosphate minerals include usage as water softening, fire proofing, rust proofing, detergents and insecticides.
Globally, North America was the largest phosphate minerals producer. In North America U.S was the largest producer of phosphate minerals followed by Canada and Mexico. The other significant producers of phosphate minerals include Australia, Brazil, Algeria etc. In Asia Pacific phosphate minerals are produced in significant volumes by countries such as Australia, China and India. In Latin America countries such as Brazil and Peru were the major phosphate producers where as Phosphate minerals were also produced in countries such as Russia, Egypt, Jordon, Syria Tunisia etc.
In terms of demand Asia Pacific was the largest consumer of phosphate minerals. This high demand for phosphate minerals stems from the demand for fertilizers in this region. China and India are the two most populated countries in the world and hence the consumption of fertilizers is comparatively very high in these regions. The demand for phosphate minerals for fertilizer application in anticipated to remain high particularly in India, since the country has largely dependent on agriculture. The other applications of phosphate minerals include production of phosphoric acid and laboratory used phosphorus. The demand for phosphate minerals for the production of phosphoric acid is also forecasted to grow at an impressive CAGR in the near future.
Some of the major companies operating in the global phosphate minerals market are GB Minerals Ltd., Vale, MBAC Fertilizer, Agrium Inc., CF Industries Inc. JR Simplot Company, Monsanto Chemicals Intermediates Company and PCS Phosphate Company Inc. among others.
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