Phosphate mining is expected to grow by 2 percent annually through 2020. Find out about the top phosphate countries by production.
The top phosphate countries by production mainly produce fertilizer for crops and animal feed supplements. Only 5 percent of world production of agricultural resources phosphate and potash is used in other applications, which include construction, soaps and detergents.
However, the USGS notes that world consumption of phosphate fertilizers is projected to increase from 47 million metric tons (MT) of the nutrient-rich rock in 2019 to 50 million MT in 2023. Africa, India and South America will account for about three-quarters of that growth in phosphate demand.
To match demand, global phosphate mine capacity is expected to increase from 157 million MT in 2019 to 177 million MT in 2023. Most of that phosphate production capacity increase will be attributable to in-progress and planned major expansion projects in Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Togo.
In 2019, global phosphate production totaled 240 million MT, down from 249 million MT in 2018.
Those interested in the phosphate-mining sector will want to keep an eye on phosphate production and mining companies in the sector. Below are 2019’s top phosphate countries by production.
Mine production: 110 million MT
China’s phosphate-mining production decreased in 2019 to 110 million MT from 140 million MT in 2018, but it is still first on the list of top phosphate production by country. The drop in Chinese output is likely a result of the nation’s environmental crackdown on the mining industry.
Looking further back, there has been speculation that China’s phosphate production in 2017 may have been overstated. According to industry analysts, the country produced just 85 million MT in 2017 instead of the 144 million MT reported by the government. For its 2019 estimate, the US Geological Survey used information from government sources in China.
The country also has the second largest phosphate reserves in the world, with 3.2 billion MT stored. The future of Chinese production remains a concern as the country’s mining and processing industry deals with environmental compliance fees, higher production costs and shutdowns due to water pollution and other environmental concerns.
2. Morocco and Western Sahara
Mine production: 36 million MT
Despite producing significantly less than China in 2018, Morocco and Western Sahara have the largest phosphate reserves. With 50 billion MT stockpiled, the region’s phosphate reserves account for over 70 percent of the global number. Together they produced 36 million MT of phosphate in 2019.
Western Sahara is disputed territory between Morocco and the Polisario political movement. In 2017, a European court ruled that Western Sahara should not be considered part of Morocco in European Union and Moroccan deals. Morocco’s Office Cherifien de Phosphate mines phosphate in the Moroccan-held part of Western Sahara, and that has led to disruptions in phosphate shipments in the past.
3. United States
Mine production: 23 million MT
In 2019, US phosphate mining decreased, dropping by 2.8 million MT from the previous year. The top phosphate-producing states, Florida and North Carolina, accounted for over 75 percent of domestic output. The other 25 percent of US production came from Southeast Idaho and Utah.
The majority of the phosphate rock mined in the US is used for manufacturing phosphoric acid and superphosphoric acid. These types of wet-process phosphate products are used for things such as animal feed supplements. About half of this type of phosphate is exported in the form of merchant-grade phosphoric acid, granular diammonium and monoammonium phosphate fertilizer.
Mine production: 14 million MT
Russia’s phosphate output held firm at 14 million MT in 2019, the same as the previous year. As per the USGS, the country has 600 million MT of phosphate in reserve.
Health concerns over cadmium, which is a heavy metal and a carcinogen, could be creating further opportunities for the phosphate-mining industry in the country. Proposed fertilizer requirements out of the European Union will limit the amount of cadmium residue permitted in phosphate imports.
The proposition prompted Polish MEP Tomasz Wlostowski to say, “The limits will only benefit Russian producers, which have monopolized low-cadmium apatite phosphate deposits and which already dominate the EU fertilizer market.”
Mine production: 8 million MT
Jordan’s phosphate-mining output slipped slightly from 8.02 million MT in 2018 to 8 million MT in 2019. Its phosphate reserves stand at an estimated 1 billion MT.
The country’s sole state-owned phosphate producer, Jordan Phosphate Mines Company (JPMC), signed six new agreements with Indian firms in February 2018. The agreements and memorandums of understanding will allow JPMC to export 3 million MT of phosphate to India between 2018 and 2022.
Another Jordan-focused producer is Arab Potash Company, a privately owned company in which China’s SDIC holds a stake.
6. Saudi Arabia
Mine production: 6.2 million MT
Saudi Arabia produced 6.2 million MT of phosphate last year, a slight increase from 2018’s output of 6.09 million MT. The country is sitting on 1.4 billion MT of phosphate reserves.
The Saudi Arabian Mining Company, also known as Ma’aden, operates the largest phosphate-mining facility in the world. The Wa’ad Al Shamal Minerals Industrial City, an integrated phosphate fertilizer production complex, is a US$8 billion joint venture investment between Ma’aden (60 percent), chemical manufacturer SABIC (15 percent) and the US’ largest potash and phosphate producer, the Mosaic Company (NYSE:MOS) (25 percent).
The company has been working with Fluor (NYSE:FLR) on the Waad al-Shamal facility, with Fluor providing project management consulting to further develop the project. Production of merchant-grade acid and fertilizer commenced as of August 2017.
Mine production: 5.5 million MT
Vietnam produced 5.5 million MT of phosphate in 2019 to rise three positions from the 10th spot on the list in 2018. Vietnam has a stockpile of 30 million MT of phosphate reserves.
Mine production: 5.3 million MT
Brazil, another of the top phosphate countries by production, produced 5.3 million MT of phosphate in 2019 compared to 5.740 million MT in 2018, dropping two spots to number eight on the list. Brazil has a booming agricultural sector and is the fifth largest fertilizer consumer; demand in the country is expected to grow twice as fast as the rest of the world from now until 2025.
Vale (NYSE:VALE) is the country’s largest producer of phosphate and nitrogen. In 2018, the company was responsible for an environmental disaster when its iron ore dam ruptured, leaking mining waste into a nearby river and waterways.
Mine production: 5 million MT
Egypt’s phosphate-mining production in 2019 remained unchanged from 2018 output levels. According to the USGS, Egypt’s phosphate reserves now sit at 1.3 billion MT. More of those reserves may get dug up in the future as the country builds a new phosphate industrial zone in Aswan. It will also expand the Safaga Port.
Mine production: 3.7 million MT
Peru made it back on the list of top phosphate countries by production 2019 with 3.7 million MT; it lost its 10th place position to both Vietnam and Tunisia in 2018. The South American nation’s main phosphate operation is the Bayóvar mining complex, in which Mosaic has a 75 percent indirect interest.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.