20 Oct 2010

IFDC Report on World Reserves of Rock Phosphate

New IFDC Report Indicates World Reserves of Rock Phosphate Are Adequate to Meet Demand

The International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) and its predecessor, the Potash & Phosphate Institute (PPI), have long promoted the effective and efficient use of phosphorus (P) fertilizer in crop production. Without balanced and appropriate P input, crop yields are reduced, quality is diminished, and the potential for adverse environmental consequences are increased. However, excessive P input in crop production, usually associated with manure application, can pose specific and well known challenges. Therefore, P input in crop production warrants careful and judicious consideration on the part of farmers and their advisors, regardless of crop or country.

Most commercial P fertilizer is derived from mined phosphate rock (PR), a naturally occurring ore consisting mainly of calcium phosphate minerals. As is the case with most natural resources, the global supply of PR is finite and there are legitimate concerns regarding eventual depletion. In response to the heightened global awareness of P and PR availability, the International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC) has released a publication entitled World Phosphate Rock Reserves and Resources (September 2010). This report is Phase One of a comprehensive effort to thoroughly evaluate world phosphate rock reserves. This initial phase includes a survey of global literature using publicly available information and was not envisioned as a definitive analysis. Phase Two will be a collaborative effort among PR producers, government agencies, international agencies, organizations, and academia to better estimate the world’s PR reserves and resources.

World Phosphate Rock Reserves and Resources provides a systematic and well organized assessment and coverage of the PR longevity issue. Among the topics addressed are manufacture of P fertilizers, PR characteristics and terminology, and an assessment of past and present reserve and resource estimates. One important observation in the publication concerns how reserve and reserve base are defined based on economics, and that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) criteria of USD 40/ton for reserves and USD100/ton for reserve base are 15 to 20 years out of date considering today’s prices. Furthermore, the terminology used to define reserves and resources is not consistent on a worldwide basis. These issues alone make an accurate and unbiased assessment of the PR situation a substantial undertaking.

The IFDC report estimates that there are about 60 billion metric tons (mt) of PR reserves worldwide as compared to the most recent USGS estimate of 16 billion mt. Among major producing countries, the biggest discrepancy in the two estimates is in size of the PR deposits in Morocco. The details of the estimate and how it was determined are discussed with clarity and transparency. It is stressed in the publication that the report is not to be considered a definitive analysis, and that cooperation among industry and government agencies is critical going forward during Phase Two. In the interim, the current IFDC effort provides a much needed compilation of publicly available information on PR reserves and provides specific forward-looking suggestions.

According to the IFDC report, the world is not on the verge of a “peak phosphorus” event in the next few decades. Based on the data reviewed, PR reserves would sustain current production levels for the next 300 to 400 years. However, PR is a finite resource, and all practical measures to ensure efficiency in production and use should be implemented. IPNI scientists look forward to cooperating with IFDC as these preliminary estimates are further refined. We will continue to promote nutrient stewardship and responsible P management for the benefit of the human family.

For more info see:

IFDC Press Release
IPNI Press Release