Phosphorite, phosphate rock or rock phosphate is a non-detrital sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution....

 which contains high amounts of phosphate
A phosphate, an inorganic chemical, is a salt of phosphoric acid. In organic chemistry, a phosphate, or organophosphate, is an ester of phosphoric acid. Organic phosphates are important in biochemistry and biogeochemistry or ecology. Inorganic phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorus for use in...

 bearing minerals. The phosphate content of phosphorite is at least 15 to 20% which is a large enrichment over the typical sedimentary rock content of less than 0.2%. The phosphate is present as fluorapatite
Fluorapatite, often with the alternate spelling of fluoroapatite, is a mineral with the formula Ca53F . Fluorapatite is a hard crystalline solid. Although samples can have various color , the pure mineral is colorless as expected for a material lacking transition metals...

 Ca5(PO4)3F (CFA) typically in cryptocrystalline
Cryptocrystalline is a rock texture made up of such minute crystals that its crystalline nature is only vaguely revealed even microscopically in thin section by transmitted polarized light. Among the sedimentary rocks, chert and flint are cryptocrystalline. Carbonado, a form of diamond, is also...

 masses (grain sizes < 1 μm) referred to as collophane. It is also present hydroxyapatite Ca5(PO4)3OH, which is often dissolved from vertebrate bones and teeth, where as fluorapatite can originate from hydrothermal veins. Other sources also include chemically dissolved phosphates minerals from igneous and metamorphic rocks. Limestones and mudstones are common phosphate bearing rocks. Phosphate rich sedimentary rocks can occur in dark brown to black beds, ranging from centimeter sized laminae to beds that are several meteres in thickness. Although these thick beds can exist they are rarely only composed of phosphatic sedimentary rocks. Phosphatic sedimentary rocks are commonly accompanied by or interbedded with shales, cherts, limestone, dolomites and sometimes sandstone. These layers contain the same textures and structures as fine grained limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

s and may represent diagenetic
In geology and oceanography, diagenesis is any chemical, physical, or biological change undergone by a sediment after its initial deposition and during and after its lithification, exclusive of surface alteration and metamorphism. These changes happen at relatively low temperatures and pressures...

 replacements of carbonate minerals
Carbonate minerals
Carbonate minerals are those minerals containing the carbonate ion: CO32-.-Anhydrous carbonates:*Calcite group: Trigonal**Calcite CaCO3**Gaspeite CO3**Magnesite MgCO3**Otavite CdCO3**Rhodochrosite MnCO3**Siderite FeCO3**Smithsonite ZnCO3...

 by phosphates. They also can be composed of peloids, ooids, fossils, and clasts that are made up of apatite. There are some phosphorites that are very small and have no distinctive granular textures. This means that their textures are similar to that of cellophane, or fine micrite-like texture. Phosphatic grains may be accompanied by organic matter, clay minerals, silt sized detrial grains, and pyrite. Peloidal or pelletal phosphorites occur normally, where as oolitic phosphorites are not very common.

Phosphorites are known from Proterozoic
The Proterozoic is a geological eon representing a period before the first abundant complex life on Earth. The name Proterozoic comes from the Greek "earlier life"...

 banded iron formation
Banded iron formation
Banded iron formations are distinctive units of sedimentary rock that are almost always of Precambrian age. A typical BIF consists of repeated, thin layers of iron oxides, either magnetite or hematite , alternating with bands of iron-poor shale and chert...

s in Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, but are more common from Paleozoic
The Paleozoic era is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic eon, spanning from roughly...

 and Cenozoic
The Cenozoic era is the current and most recent of the three Phanerozoic geological eras and covers the period from 65.5 mya to the present. The era began in the wake of the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous that saw the demise of the last non-avian dinosaurs and...

 sediments. The Permian
The PermianThe term "Permian" was introduced into geology in 1841 by Sir Sir R. I. Murchison, president of the Geological Society of London, who identified typical strata in extensive Russian explorations undertaken with Edouard de Verneuil; Murchison asserted in 1841 that he named his "Permian...

 Phosphoria Formation
Phosphoria Formation
The Permian Phosphoria Formation of the western United States represents some 15 million years of sedimentation, reaches a thickness of and covers an area of . The formation is a phosphorite and an important resource of phosphorus....

 of the western United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 represents some 15 million years of sedimentation reaches a thickness of 420 metres and covers an area of 350 000 km2. Commercially mined phosporites occur in France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

, Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

 and Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

. In the United States phosphorites have been mined in Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

, Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

, Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

, and Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....


Classification of Phosphatic Sedimentary Rocks

(1) Pristine: Phosphates that are in pristine conditions have not undergone bioturbation. In other words the word pristine is used when phosphatic sediment, phosphatized stromatilites and phosphate hardgrounds have not been disturbed.

(2) Condenced: Phosphatic particles, laminae and beds are considered condensed when they have been concentrated. This is helped by the extracting and reworking processes of phosphatic particles or bioturbation.

(3) Allochthonous: Phosphatic particles that were moved by turbulent or gravity-driven flows and deposited by these flows.

Phosphorus Cycle, Formation and Accumulation

The heaviest accumulation of phosphorus is mainly on the ocean floor. Phosphorus accumulation occurs from atmospheric precipitation, dust, glacial run off, cosmic activity, underground hydrothermal volcanic activity, and deposition of organic material. However, the primary inflow of dissolved phosphorus is from continental weathering, brought out by rivers to the ocean. It is then processed by both micro- and macro-organisms. Diatomaceous plankton, phytoplankton, and zooplankton process and dissolve phosphorus in the water. The bones and teeth of certain fish (e.g. anchovies) absorb phosphorus and are later deposited and buried in the ocean sediment.

Depending on the PH and salinity levels of the ocean water, organic matter will decay and releases phosphorus from sediment in shallow basins. Bacteria and enzymes dissolve organic matter on the water bottom interface, thus returning phosphorus to the beginning of its biogenic cycle. Mineralization of organic matter can also cause the release of phosphorus back into the ocean water.

Depositional Environments

Phosphates are known to be deposited in a wide range of depositional environments. Normally phosphates are deposited in very shallow, near shore marine or low energy environments. This includes environments such as supratidal zones, littoral or intertidal zones, and most importantly estuarine. Currently, areas of oceanic upwelling cause the formation of phosphates. This is because of the constant stream of phosphate brought from the large, deep ocean reservoir (see below). This cycle allows continuous growth of organisms.

Supratidal Zones: Supratidal environments are part of the tidal flat system where the presence of strong wave activity is nonexistent. Tidal flat systems are created along open coasts and relatively low wave energy environments. They can also develop on high energy coasts behind barrier islands where they are blocked from the high energy wave action. Within the tidal flat system, the supratidal zone lies in a very high tide level. However, it can be flooded by extreme tides and cut across by tidal channels. This is also subaerially exposed, but is flooded twice a month by spring tides.

Littoral Environments/ Intertidal Zones: Intertidal zones are also part of the tidal flat system. The intertidal zone is located with in the mean high and low tide levels. It is subject to tidal shifts, which means that it is subaerially exposed once or twice a day. However, it is not exposed long enough to withhold vegetation. The zone contains both suspension sedimentation and bed load.

Estuarine Environments: Estuarine environments, or estuaries, are located at the lower parts of rivers that stream into the open sea. Since they are in the seaward section of the downed valley system they receive sediment from both marine and fluvial sources. These contain facies that are affected by tide and wave fluvial processes. From the top, the estuary is considered to stretch from in the landward limit of tidal facies to the seaward limit of costal facies. Phosphorites are often deposited in Fjords with in estuarine environments. These are estuaries with shallow sill constrictions. During Holocene sea-level rise, these estuaries built a U shaped valley profile formed by drowning the glacially eroded valleys.

The most common occurrence of phosphorites are related to strong marine upwelling of sediments. Upwelling is caused by deep water currents that are brought up to coastal surfaces where a large deposition of phosphorites may occur. This type of environment is the main reason why phosphorites are commonly associated with silica and chert. Estuaries are also known as a phosphorus “trap”. This is because coastal estuaries contain a high productivity of phosphorus from marsh grass and benthic alge which allow an equilibrium exchange between living and dead organisms.

Types of Phosphorite Deposition

(1) Nodular Phosphorites: These are spherical concentrations that are randomly distributed along the floor of continental shelves. Most phosphorite grains are sand size although particles greater than 2mm may be present. These larger grains, referred to as nodules, can range up to several tens of centimeters in size.

(2) Bioclastic Phosphates or Bone Beds: Bone beds are bedded phosphate deposits that contain concentrations of small skeletal particles and corprolites. Some also contain invertebrate fossils like brachiopods and become more enriched in P2O5 after diagentic processes have occurred. Bioclastic phosphates can also be cemented by phosphate minerals.

(3) Phosphatization: Phosphatization is a type of rare diagenetic processes. It occurs when fluids that are rich in phosphate are leached from guano. These are then concentrated and represipitated in limestone. Phosphatized fossils or fragments of original phosphatic shells are important components within some these deposits.

Tectonic and Oceanographic Settings of Marine Phosphorites

(1) Epeiric Sea Phosphorites: Epeiric Sea Phosphorites are within marine shelf environments. These are in a broad and shallow cratonic setting. This is where granular phosphorites, phosphorite hardgrounds, and nodules occur.

(2) Continental Margin Phosphorites: Convergent, passive, upwelling, non-upwelling. This environment accumulates phosphorites in the form of hardgrounds, nodules and granular beds. These accumulate by carbonate fluorapatite percipitaion during early diagenisis in the upper few tens of centimeters of sediment. There are two different environmental conditions in which phosphorites are produced within continental margins. Continental margins can consist of organic rich sedimentation, strong coastal upwelling, and pronounced low oxygen zones. They can also form in conditions such as oxygen rich bottom waters and organic poor sediments.

(3) Seamount Phosphorites: These are phosphorites that occur in seamounts, guyots, or flat topped seamounts, seamount ridges. These phosphories are produced in association with iron and magnesium bearing crusts. In this setting the productivity of phosphorus is recycled within a iron oxidation reduction phosphorus cycle. This cycle can also form glauconite which is normally associated with modern and ancient phosphorites.

(4) Insular Phosphorites: Insular Phosphorites are located in carbonate islands, plateaus, coral island consisting of a reef surrounding a lagoon or, atoll lagoon, marine lakes. The phosphorite here originates from guano. Replacement of deep sea sediments precipitates, that has been formed in place on the ocean floor.

Production and use

Deposits which contain phosphate in quantity and concentration which are economic to mine
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

 as ore
An ore is a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements including metals. The ores are extracted through mining; these are then refined to extract the valuable element....

 for their phosphate content are not particularly common. The two main sources for phosphate are guano
Guano is the excrement of seabirds, cave dwelling bats, and seals. Guano manure is an effective fertilizer due to its high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen and also its lack of odor. It was an important source of nitrates for gunpowder...

, formed from bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

 droppings, and rocks containing concentrations of the calcium phosphate mineral, apatite
Apatite is a group of phosphate minerals, usually referring to hydroxylapatite, fluorapatite, chlorapatite and bromapatite, named for high concentrations of OH−, F−, Cl− or Br− ions, respectively, in the crystal...


Phosphate rock is mined, beneficiated, and either solubilized to produce wet-process phosphoric acid
Phosphoric acid
Phosphoric acid, also known as orthophosphoric acid or phosphoric acid, is a mineral acid having the chemical formula H3PO4. Orthophosphoric acid molecules can combine with themselves to form a variety of compounds which are also referred to as phosphoric acids, but in a more general way...

, or smelted to produce elemental phosphorus
Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

. Phosphoric acid is reacted with phosphate rock to produce the fertilizer triple superphosphate or with anhydrous ammonia to produce the ammonium phosphate
Ammonium phosphate
Ammonium phosphate is the salt of ammonia and phosphoric acid. It has the formula 3PO4 and consists of ammonium cations and phosphate anion. It is obtained as a crystalline powder upon mixing concentrated solutions of ammonia and phosphoric acid, or on the addition of excess of ammonia to the...

 fertilizers. Elemental phosphorus is the base for furnace-grade phosphoric acid, phosphorus pentasulfide, phosphorus pentoxide
Phosphorus pentoxide
Phosphorus pentoxide is a chemical compound with molecular formula P4O10 . This white crystalline solid is the anhydride of phosphoric acid. It is a powerful desiccant.-Structure:...

, and phosphorus trichloride
Phosphorus trichloride
Phosphorus trichloride is a chemical compound of phosphorus and chlorine, having chemical formula PCl3. Its shape is trigonal pyramidal. It is the most important of the three phosphorus chlorides. It is an important industrial chemical, being used for the manufacture of organophosphorus compounds...

. Approximately 90% of phosphate rock production is used for fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

 and animal feed supplements and the balance for industrial chemicals.

Froth flotation
Froth flotation
Froth flotation is a process for selectively separating hydrophobic materials from hydrophilic. This is used in several processing industries...

 is used to concentrate the mined phosphorous to rock phosphate. The mined ore slurry is treated with fatty acids to cause calcium phosphate to become hydrophobic.

For general use in the fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

 industry, phosphate rock or its concentrates preferably have levels of 30% phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5), reasonable amounts of calcium carbonate (5%), and <4% combined iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 and aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

 oxides. Worldwide, the resources of high-grade ore are declining, and the beneficiation of lower grade ores by washing, flotation and calcining is becoming more widespread.

In addition to phosphate fertilisers for agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

, phosphorus from rock phosphate is also used in animal feed supplements, food preservatives, anti-corrosion agents, cosmetics, fungicides, ceramics, water treatment and metallurgy.

In the world, the United States is the leading producer and exporter of phosphate fertilizers, accounting for about 37% of world P2O5 exports. The world’s total economic demonstrated resource of rock phosphate is 18 Gt, which occurs principally as sedimentary marine phosphorites.

Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 are the world's largest miners of phosphate rock, each producing about a quarter of the total world production. Other countries with significant production include Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 and Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

. Historically, large amounts of phosphates were obtained from deposits on small islands such as Christmas Island
Christmas Island
The Territory of Christmas Island is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It is located northwest of the Western Australian city of Perth, south of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and ENE of the Cocos Islands....

 and Nauru
Nauru , officially the Republic of Nauru and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country in Micronesia in the South Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, to the east. Nauru is the world's smallest republic, covering just...

, but these sources are now largely depleted.
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