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Phosphate: All hopes rest on Morocco with 75% of remaining reserves

Phosphate: All hopes rest on Morocco with 75% of remaining reserves

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is phosphorous-conveyer-belt-61-miles-long.jpg

Source: The world’s longest conveyor belt system. This record setting conveyor belt system can even be seen from space. atlasobscura.com. A winding system of interlinked belts, the extra-long conveyance system transports phosphate ore from a mining operation 61 miles to the sea.

Preface. Phosphate is absolutely essential for high agricultural production, one of the “big 3” nutrients that boosts maximum crop growth (along with nitrogen and potassium).

It’s estimated that Morocco has of 75-85% of phosphate reserves that might last for 300-400 years.  But that may not be correct, as Walan (2014) points out in the paper below.  And even if true, Moroccan extraction can be disrupted by war, lack of water, energy shortages, and the difficulty of removing cadmium which is very toxic to plants.

China is the world’s largest producer of phosphate rock (48% of the world’s supply in 2013). It also uses a large amount of phosphorus to sustain its growing population. But China’s reserves of phosphorus, a key element for growing food, could be exhausted within the next 35 years if the country maintains its current production rate (Liu 2016).

Inevitably, the combination of rising cost and declining oil will force phosphate production to peak and then decline, even in Morocco (Bardi 2009).

Peak Phosphorus in the news

Jaere. 2020. ‘Peak phosphorus’ is upon us, and sewage is valuable muck. Phys.org

Mohr S.H., et al. 2013. Projections of future phosphorus production. Philica Article number 380.

***

Walan, P., et al. 2014. Phosphate rock production and depletion: Regional disaggregated modeling and global implications. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 93: 178-187. 

Excerpts:

Table 1. Main features of previous studies on phosphate rock depletion and production.
* Most countries’ reserves will be depleted in less than 100 years.
** Reserve base is included in the highest reserve estimations

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