Friday, December 19, 2014

China’s high-quality phosphorus ore outflows to overseas seriously

In recent years, the international phosphate fertilizer giants taking the Mosaic Company as representative, have accelerated their investment in Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other countries with abundant phosphorus ore, obviously intending to raise their influences in the global market through controlling the phosphorus ore as the starting point. However, in contrast to the trend mentioned above, Chinese enterprises still export their phosphate fertilizers made from the high-quality phosphorus ore overseas on the basis of China’s large proportion of medium- and low-grade phosphorus ore and the low utilization rate, which indirectly accelerating the loss of China’s high-quality phosphorus ore.   
According to the statistics from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the global economic reserves and basic reserves of phosphate rocks (phosphorus ore is the general term for the available phosphate minerals in economy) are 18 billion tonnes and 50 billion tonnes respectively (economic reserves refer to the phosphorus ore with mining cost less than USD35/t and basic reserves refer to those with mining cost less than USD100/t). In fact, over 80% phosphate rocks are clustered in Morocco, the US, South Africa, Jordan and China. Of this, China’s phosphorus ore reserves and basic reserves are 4.1 billion tonnes and 10 billion tonnes, accounting for 27.14% and 21.28% of the global volume respectively. However, there are few high-grade phosphorus ore but rich low-grade phosphorus ore in China and the average grade only reaches 17% phosphorus pentoxide ( P2O5). The high-grade phosphorus ore with over 30% P2O5 only accounts for 8.5% of the total. What's worse, over 90% of medium- and low-grade phosphorus ore cannot be used directly. In view of the analysis conducted by related experts, the current Chinese phosphorus ore may run out within about 20 years.
Phosphorus ore are mainly used in producing phosphate fertilizers and phosphoric acid. With the increasing population worldwide, more and more phosphate fertilizers are in demand to guarantee the food supply. In 2012, the global consumption of phosphate fertilizer was 41.9 million tonnes and it is predicted that the figure will reach 45.3 million tonnes by 2016. According to the preliminary statistics summarized by the China Phosphate Fertilizer Industry Association, China totally output around 16.5 million tonnes of phosphate fertilizers in 2013, of which about 11.88 million tonnes were consumed in the planting industry. Additionally, about 80% phosphorus ore are adopted to manufacture phosphate fertilizers directly or indirectly in China. In recent years, exporting the high-quality phosphate fertilizer is the natural choice to solve China's overcapacity of phosphate fertilizers. It is disclosed that the average export volume of Chinese phosphate fertilizers is around 2.2 million tonnes and a great deal of high-grade phosphorus ore with low-content cadmium drain to the overseas markets. According to data from China Customs, in H1 2014, China exported 596,100 tonnes of monoammonium phosphate, up 201% year on year, 1.27 million tonnes of diammonium phosphate, up 146% year on year, and 493,900 tonnes of triple superphosphate, rising by 116% year on year.
Once China's high-grade phosphorus ore fail to meet the domestic needs of producing phosphate fertilizers, China has to import phosphorus ore or phosphate fertilizers from overseas. At that moment, China will suffer restrictions in the purchase volume and the price of phosphate fertilizers and most imported phosphorus ore or phosphate fertilizers are likely to contain much more cadmium than the Chinese phosphorus fertilizers does. In order to prevent such problems, the Chinese government and enterprises should exploit and utilize the precious phosphorus ore in a reasonable way from now on.
For the Chinese government, firstly, it should improve the access threshold for phosphorus ore exploitation and advance the large-scale and intensive development and utilization of phosphorus ore. Furthermore, it can carry out rational plans, regulate related measures to protect phosphorus ore and control and eliminate unqualified enterprises. Secondly, the Chinese government should intensify the resource exploration and excavate new phosphorus ore resources. The Ministry of Land and Resources of People's Republic of China and related departments should strengthen the exploration capacity for mines, especially for the surroundings and the deep of key mines with favorable phosphoric mineralization to excavate more high-grade phosphorus ore. Thirdly, the Chinese government should intensify supports to the comprehensive utilization technologies of phosphorus ore. China should input more spending to the new technologies, contributing to the energy conservation, emission reduction and consumption reduction in the phosphorus chemical industry so as to improve the level of comprehensively utilizing Chinese phosphorus ore. These new technologies include the technology of producing high-concentrated phosphate compound fertilizers directly based on the medium- and low-grade phosphorus ore and the technology of fully using sulfur and associated resources based on the chemical-process phosphogysum. Fourthly, the Chinese government should encourage enterprises to invest overseas so as to achieve more phosphorus ore with low prices. Through implementing related policies, the Chinese government can encourage large enterprises to take measures such as making investments, jointing capital and merger to establish their own phosphorus ore businesses overseas and participate in the phosphorus chemical asset integration with Morocco, Saudi Arabia and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East in order to collect more cheap phosphorus ore.  
For enterprises, Chinese phosphorus ore enterprises and phosphate fertilizer enterprises should rationally utilize their resources and appropriately export their products abroad. Besides, they should enhance the recovery of phosphorus ore mining and ore dressing, rationally exploit and fully utilize China's limited phosphorus with low-content cadmium and consider to export appropriate volume of phosphate fertilizers under the precondition of ensuring the sustainable supply in the domestic market.  

-          This article was provided by CCM, a leading provider of data and business intelligence on China’s chemicals market. For more information on CCM and China Li-ion Battery E-News, please visit or contact

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