Ethan Park Expects to Harvest a Bumper Crop from Potash and Phosphate Juniors

Source: Peter Byrne of The Energy Report (8/26/14)

Ethan Park of Extract Capital could teach a college graduate-level course on the differences between phosphate and potash. Park's basic advice to The Energy Report: Don't miss out on making money with these essential commodities just because they smell like, well, fertilizer.

The Energy Report: Investors who follow the metals may not pay much heed to the phosphate space. What are the agricultural and industrial uses for phosphates?

Ethan Park: Phosphate is an essential nutrient required for agriculture. About 80-82% of phosphate is used for fertilizer. Specifically, phosphate is used for root development, flowering, and prevention of diseases and stress. The bag of fertilizer you purchase in your local home improvement store contains phosphate.

There is really no substitute for phosphate. Outside of agriculture, about 20% of the global phosphate supply is used for industrial purposes, such as in ceramics and flame retardants. It is also in detergent and food additives.

TER: How does phosphate occur geologically?

EP: Phosphate occurs in three types of deposits: sedimentary, igneous and guano deposits. The sedimentary deposits are formed from decayed organic matter in ancient seabeds and have a 15-30% phosphate content. Igneous deposits are formed through cooling and solidification of magma. Typically, those deposits have a 5-10% phosphate content. The third type of deposit, guano deposits, occurs when small ocean islands are formed on corals crusted with guano deposits from seabirds.

Sedimentary deposits are generally easier to mine, but they contain higher quantities of heavy metals, such as uranium and cadmium. Igneous deposits are lower grade in situ, but they can be concentrated to much higher levels, up to 39%, compared to 30% for sedimentary deposits. Guano island deposits have no—or very few—contaminants. The mined phosphate-laden rock and guano is concentrated and refined into phosphoric acid and fertilizer, such as monoammonium phosphate (MAP) or diammonium phosphate (DAP).