The next phase includes a floatation process that coats the phosphate particles with a hydrocarbon, allowing them to float to the surface for further separation.
The marketable product that companies reference is this beneficiated phosphate rock, whose phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5) content is suitable for phosphoric acid or elemental phosphorus production.
This product is often upgraded into granular diammonium and monoammonium phosphate (DAP and MAP, respectively), which is a high-grade, water-soluable fertilizer that can be applied to crops. Single super phosphate is a cheaper alternative to the popular DAP and is obtained through a chemical reaction between rock phosphate and sulphuric acid.
Like potash, phosphate is unevenly distributed globally, placing a large and growing amount of control onto a select number of markets. Morocco is home to 85 percent of global reserves, with smaller but significant reserves in the US, Canada, China and a number of other Middle Eastern and North African countries.
Phosphate is typically sold by the tonne in agreements signed between suppliers and consumers either through defined contracts or through spot markets. China and India are important players in determining where contract prices will settle and what impact growing demand will have in the market.
Potash is a potassium-based product that is often bonded to other chemicals to make it stable in normal conditions. Its name comes from the potash production process, whereby wood ashes are leached in iron pots: pot-ash. Today, potash has become shorthand for a variety of water-soluble potassium salts and is predominantly used as a fertilizer nutrient to encourage water retention in plants, increase yield, improve taste and help plants resist disease.
Today, the extraction and refinement of potash products is more complex as companies focus on ancient underground oceans of potassium salts that are often located hundreds of feet or more below the surface; these are mined as potash ore.