Almost all phosphorous used today in modern fertilizers are originate from phosphate mines. The apatite containing phosphate rock is mined and shipped to fertilizer industries. The fertilizer industry is traditionally using large amounts of energy for water evaporation when producing highly concentrated phosphoric acid from the apatite. The phosphoric acid is thereafter used as a raw material for different types of phosphate fertilizers. This creates a large energy demand which constitutes a substantial part of the industry’s operational cost. The processes also often lack the ability to remove heavy metals, such as, cadmium from the end product which end up in either the food and/or the soil.
As of 2019, LKAB invested 45 MSek in a pilot plant based on the CleanMAP process, with the goal of extracting both mono ammonium phosphate (MAP) as well as rare earth elements (REE) from their apatite rich tailings sand. For more details see LKAB’s press release.