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July 11, 2023
2 Min Read
A view of the phosphate production plant in Kef Eddour, in the Metlaoui mining region, one of the main mining sites in central Tunisia, another source of phosphate.FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images)
Phosphorous is a key ingredient in both fertilizer and lithium-iron-phosphate battery production and current supplies are concentrated in a few locations.
But the identification of a 70-billion ton deposit of phosphate in Norway by Norge Mining and a deal with Germany’s IBU-tec Advanced Materials AG to convert the phosphate ore into materials suitable for battery production should ease potential supply constraints. Norge Mining says that this is one of the world’s largest such deposits.
“Safe, reliable, and, last but not least, sustainable sources of raw materials are a key requirement for large-volume LFP battery materials production, especially in the current economic environment,” said Ulrich Weitz, CEO of IBU-tec. “The cooperation with Norge Mining ensures that we can obtain iron phosphate from European sources for years to come.”
Current phosphate supplies are 44 percent from China, 14 percent from Morocco, 9.5 percent from the U.S., and 6.9 percent from Russia. According to Swedish researchers Nedelciu et al. (2020), global phosphate rock mining and phosphorous processing will have to double by 2050 to meet the demand for both food security and the EV transportation revolution.
A bonus of the Norwegian deposit is that it is of higher purity than most phosphate sources, according to industry consultant Jana Plananska, CEO of Jana Plananska Mobility Solutions GmbH, who writes on Norge’s blog that “roughly 80 percent of extracted phosphate comes from sedimentary sources, that suffer from higher contamination levels. The quality of this is lower than the pure magmatic resources found beneath Norway’s surface. This means there is a lot of hard graft at the processing stage midstream; it needs to be treated with more laborious procedures to get to the purity that’s needed for high-end applications such as semiconductors and li-ion batteries. This incurs higher energy costs and greater manpower.”
The Norge mine’s location is also positioned to motivate the development of European sources of phosphate refining. Today, 70 percent of refined phosphorus is from Kazakhstan, with 25 percent coming from Vietnam, and 4 percent from China, leaving the rest of the world with virtually zero phosphorus refining capacity currently.
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