In the first global review of phosphate rock resources and reserves since 2010, a new study finds that there is enough technically recoverable phosphate for more than 300 years

London 25 April 2023

Global energy and commodity information service Argus has produced a study commissioned by the International Fertilizer Association (IFA) to transparently assess global resources and reserves of phosphate rock, a source of the key nutrient phosphorus, which is used in the production of fertilizer. The analysis was based on the best publicly available information and data collected through company surveys. It found that, despite reports in some quarters to the contrary, there is no global shortage, and that there are sufficient deposits of mineable and processable phosphate rock for about 350 years’ supply at projected usage rates and using current technology.

This figure assumes no advance in mining and processing technology from the present day and can be seen as a low-ball estimate. In theory, if total available global resources are considered, more sustainable farming practices are more widely adopted and fertilizers are used in an increasingly efficient way, a higher-end limit could be more than 1,000 years.

The report highlights that plentiful supply should not deter companies from working towards sustainability objectives, including improving agricultural use efficiency, recycling nutrients from various waste streams, and maximizing efficiency of the phosphate mining and extraction processes. These actions will maximize the longevity of phosphate reserves.

Efficient use of nutrients will result in improved crop yields and farm economics, reduced aquatic ecosystem pollution via runoff and the increased lifespan of currently known phosphate deposits.

In producing the study, Argus took a scenario-based approach and found that in all cases there is no imminent threat to the global supply of phosphorus for plant nutrition. Given the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the increasing sense of urgency surrounding the COP Climate Summits, attention should be focused on the decarbonization of the sector, rather than any perception of global phosphate rock scarcity.

Argus Media chairman and chief executive Adrian Binks said: “This study provides a balanced and insightful contribution to the debate about the future availability of phosphate rock as a source of fertilizer.”

Alzbeta Klein, CEO and Director General of the International Fertilizer Association said: “While the findings of this study are very reassuring from the perspective of the availability of global phosphate reserves, the industry recognizes the need to focus on greater sustainability in the production and use of phosphates as a priority. Innovation across the supply chain is needed to ensure we extract and use the available reserves appropriately now and into the future. IFA and its members are committed to both the sustainable use of phosphate reserves and to exploring opportunities to recycle by-products where possible.”

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