Toronto-headquartered Allana Potash Corp. is a junior mining company with a focus on the acquisition and development of potash assets internationally with its flagship in the Danakhil Potash property (also referred to as the Dallol Potash Project), which is a previously explored potash property in northeastern Ethiopia. Now Allana has announced the results from an independent preliminary economic assessment (PEA) of production of SOP (sulphate of potash), a premium potash product widely used on chloride sensitive crops such as tobacco, fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts. In 2014 world production was of some 2.7 million tonnes K2O. China is the largest consumer. SOP production would be a separate mining operation producing about 1 million metric tons per year over an estimated 77- year operating life through solution mining of brine followed by solar evaporation. The Danakhil Project area is the one of hottest places on earth, which allows for the use of solar evaporation after solution mining and should bring significant cost savings. It has been reported that Ethiopia is the cheapest place to extract potash after Jordan, because the deposits are only 100 meters below the surface, compared with about 1,000 meters in Brazil and Canada where the grade is similar. Total operating costs, including production, transportation, port storage and loading, and sustaining capital expenditures, are estimated at $130/mt of SOP. The payback period from the start of production is estimated at four years.
EuroChem, Russia-based global nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer producer, will in 2015/16 start the construction of a beneficiation plant in the Zhambyl province in southern Kazakhstan. The output will be send to phosphate plants in Southern Russia. As of 2014, the company had a total of 4.2 billion tonnes of phosphate rock reserves and resources and realized capital expenditures of US$ 282 million in phosphates. Kazakhstan has 260 million mt reserves of phosphate rock and produced in the last couple of years some 1.6 million tonnes rock per year. Eurochem plans to produce in the current year over 120,000 mt of finished phosphate. The development in Kazakhstan is strategically important for Eurochem because of the threat that further declines in iron ore price may reduce the phosphate segment economics at the company’s Kovdorskiy GOK.
India, the world’s second largest fertilizer consuming country, had on this decade an annual fertilizer consumption growth of 4.8 percent. The availability of raw material for indigenous production is poor. Urea is the only fertilizer that can potentially be produced without any imported content. But the paucity of natural gas, the most preferred feed stock for its manufacture, is coming in the way of doing so, necessitating the setting up of joint ventures for urea production in gas-rich countries. In the case of the other fertilizers, the country has no source of potash, and only limited resources of phosphate rock. India’s phosphate processing facilities are located along the coast to facilitate the imports of raw materials needed to produce upgraded phosphate products. India’s levels of rock imports are highly impacted by the situation of the country’s DAP inventories.
India has a great potential for fertilizer consumption growth because its soils are under considerable strain, the result of natural nutrient deficiencies, intense farming practices and diverse crop requirements.
Israel’s potash maker ICL has promoted a major step forward in the phosphate front. It is forming a j-v with the Chinese leading producer of phosphate rock and fertilizers Yunnan Yuntianhua by an investment of US$ 500 million. The Israelis will receive a 15% ownership of the Chinese company, which in 2013 had sales of 55.87 billion Chinese Renmimbi (US$ 9.02 billion). This was an increase of 465.1% versus 2012, when the company’s sales were 9.89 billion Chinese Renmimbi. The value of the Yunnan company’s phosphate chain accounts for some three quarters of their total gross profit.
The new j-v company will operate an integrated phosphate operation, based on an annual production of some 2.5 million tonnes of phosphate rock during the next 30 years, through the 100% ownership of the Haiko Phosphate Mines Assets. They will have a nameplate annual capacity of 700,000 tonnes of phosacid, 1.85 million tonnes of sulphuric acid, 60,000 tonnes of white phosphoric acid, 65,000 tonnes of speciality phosphates for the food and engineered materials market, and 850,000 tonnes of fertilizers. In this way, ICL will overcome her failure in developing the Barir phosphate field in Arad (Israel) due to environmental objections and secure for decades rock at a more competitive cost. ICL produced last year at its home base in the Negev 3.4 million tonnes rock, of which 946,000 were exported. Her main export market was India, where she sold 318,000 tonnes. Last year ICL also produced 576,000 tonnes of green phosphoric acid, 211,000 tonnes of white phosphoric acid, and 1.7 million tonnes fertilizers.
With the additional Yunnan phosphate capacities, ICL will be a more important mover in the phosphate scene, with some 6 million tonnes phosrock, 1,300 tonnes of phosacid, 350,000 tonnes of purified phosacid, 2.7 million tonnes of fertilizers and nearly 0.9 million tonnes of specialty fertilizers. The j-v will also give ICL new products like, for example, specialty water soluble MAP.
The phosphate rock main market is the production of phosphate fertilizer products such as ammonium phosphates and superphosphates, which accounts for some 90% of the world phosphate rock consumption. Phosphorous plays an important role in root development and in the synthesis of protein, fats and carbohydrates. The rest is consumed as animal feed and in a variety of industrial/technical applications (for phosphoric acid required for detergents and cleaners, food production, metal cleaning, etc.).
Sedimentary deposits provide between 80-90% of the world phosphate rock production, containing francolite–a carbonate-fluorapatite. Francolites with high carbonate for P substitution are the most highly reactive and the most suitable for direct application as fertilizers or soil amendments, but this usage is quite limited and it is estimated that world consumption is less than two million tonnes per annum. Some 10-20% of world phosphate production is mined from igneous deposits. Relative to sedimentary pebble rocks, igneous phosphates have a macrocrystalline structure and are denser and less porous. More than 30 countries produce phosphate rock for commercial purposes, with the top 12 countries supplying over 90% of all the material.
Lower grade rock undergoes a beneficiation process to remove impurities creating an improved quality product with higher phosphate content. The methods employed to beneficiate phosphate rock consist of washing, grinding, flotation (to isolate phosphate bearing ore from certain impurities) and drying. This beneficiation process usually yields a concentration of around 1.5 times, but higher ratios are possible with some rocks. The targeted result of the beneficiation process is a phosphate concentrate ranging from 28% to 35% P2O5.
There is a limited usage of phosphate rock applied directly as a fertilizer. The use of rock phosphate for direct application as fertilizer depends on its level of solubility in the acidic soil. This application is dependent up on the structure and chemical composition of the rock. Mineralogical tests should be done to assess the suitability for direct application. It is stated that carbonate radical is responsible for the reactivity of directly applied P2O5 in the rock.
Sometimes the rock is partially acidulated – called PAPR – a process that converts the insoluble tricalcium phosphate of phosphate rock into a mixture of water-soluble monocalcium phosphate and citrate-soluble dicalcium phosphate. The extent of acidulation depends on factors like the type of acid, acid-rock ratio, temperature, time of reaction, and the proportion of apatite and non-apatite materials in the rock. Different acids have been used and they include phosphoric acid, sulphuric, hydrochloric, nitric, carbonic, oxalic, citric and acetic acids.
The physical characteristics of a rock can sometimes limit its acceptability both for economic and environmental reasons. The hardness of a rock together with the particle size distribution and the type of grinding equipment used will determine the energy used in getting the rock fine enough for the processing stage. Hard rocks and those with angular silica grains increase substantially the wear on grinding equipment. The size distribution of the particles also affects the rock’s handling characteristics. Rocks with too many “fines” will be dusty causing P205 losses and environmental pollution. The water content of concentrates is generally kept above 1.5% to limit dusting and below 2.5% for economic shipping. The pore spacing of the rock also determines its handling characteristics, for instance igneous rock types have few pore spaces and may be saturated with moisture at only 1-2% H20.
The quantity of certain chemicals contained within a rock directly affects its usefulness for the manufacture of phosphoric acid and downstream fertilizers. As well as affecting the process directly, many of these constituents interreact to produce other effects, some beneficial, but mostly detrimental to the reaction. A key factor is the calcium sulphate content of the rock, the remaining CaO level will be directly related to the consumption of sulphuric acid. Seawater washing during rock beneficiation and insufficient freshwater rinsing can be a cause of high and fluctuating Cl levels. As an indication of carbonate levels in the rock, CO2 high values can indicate a tendency to foam during the reaction. Heavy metal content of phosphate products seriously impact the composition of animal feed and food grade products (for example the high cadmium content of the Togolese rock ouput, gravely affects its export possibilities).
Phosphate Rock Production
2012 = About 200 million tonnes rock
China is the biggest world producer of phosphate rock.
There is a historic trend by which the phosphate fertilizer manufacturing goes from areas lacking the raw material, to those who mine it. So it happens that if in the beginning of the seventies trade of phosphate rock neared half of its production, today it is around a tenth.
In world phosphate rock trade, the Moroccan governmental producer OCP (Office Cherifien des Phosphates) is the key player with more than a third of the world exports.
In 2011, the five largest rock importers were India, USA, Indonesia, Belgium and Brazil; in 2012 they were India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil and Poland.
Morocco has about a three quarters of the world phosphate rock reserves, they are the second world producer and the biggest exporter, accounting for more than a third of the world exports.
India is the largest world importer of phosphate rock, and Jordan is its main supplier.
A key indicator for the rock price levels are the DAP price developments:
The above chart uses prices of phosphate rock (Moroccan), 70% BPL, contract, f.a.s. Casablanca, and DAP, bulk, f.o.b. US Gulf.
Giant phosphate producer OCP and Brazilian fertilizer producer Fertilizantes Heringer have entered into a definitive agreement, under which OCP will purchase around a 10 percent stake in Heringer. Under the terms of the deal, Casablanca-based OCP will buy a minimum of 5,385,712 and a maximum of 5,686,316 new common nominative shares, or 9.5-10.5pc, of Heringer’s shares for USD 64.9m. The company’s production capacity increased from 5,7 million tonnes in 2011 to 6 million tonnes in 2013. OCP, the world’s biggest phosphate exporter, is claiming a stake in Brazil to take advantage of booming demand for fertilizers at a time when Mosaic and Yara are also snapping up assets, driving a consolidation in the industry.
Heringer will invest the proceeds gained from this sale in increasing its blending capacity in its key markets. Brazil is expected to supply in the current year some 32,1 million tonnes fertilizers, a volume 3.2% larger than in 2013. Soybean farmers, who buy about a third of the fertilizers used in the country, are expected to grow a record crop this year as Chinese demand for animal feed remains strong.
Urea, N-P-K composition 46-0-0, is the most commonly produced and widely traded nitrogen product. It is estimated that 90 percent is used as fertilizer and the rest for industrial purposes. Synthesized from ammonia and carbon dioxide (CO2), urea is the only primary nitrogen product chemically classified as organic (because of its carbon content). Nitrogen is the most crucial and major nutrient element in plant growth. It is abundant in nature and enhances better yields. Because urea is produced from ammonia and carbon dioxide, which is a by-product of ammonia production, all urea plants are located adjacent to or in proximity to an ammonia plant.
China and India account for more than a half of urea output (as well as capacity), however, these two countries are the largest urea consumers, over half of it. In 1912, more than forty percent of the urea fertilizer was consumed in East Asia, followed by South Asia, which took nearly a quarter of the product.
State-run fertilizer company Petrokimia Gresik plans to open a 200,000 tpa phosphoric acid plant in East Java in the second quarter of the current year.
Construction began in 2010 and the output will be shared in two equal parts by Gresik and by the Jordan Phosphate Mines (JOPH). The plant will have a nameplate capacity of 0.2 million tonnes phosphoric acid per year, 0.8 million tonnes sulphuric acid per year, and 1 million NPK fertilizer per year. The factory will need yearly some 150,000 tonnes of ammonia, 800,000 tonnes of phosphate rock (imported from Jordan), and 270,000 tonnes of sulphur.
Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia, consumes some 50,000 tpa of fertilizer nutrients. They are the third largest world producer of paddy rice, following China and India.
Jordan Phosphate Mines Company operates 3 mining facilities in Jordan and a chemical manufacturing complex in Aqaba and they reported sales of USD 1.08 billion for the year ending December of 2012. JPMC produces more than 7 million tonnes of phosphate rock annually, making Jordan the sixth country worldwide in terms of production and the second largest country in terms of export.