The newsLINK Group - Why Phosphate Matters

Editorial Library Category: Mining Topics: Mining, Phosphate Title: Phosphate Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: You probably know that atoms are building blocks and that everything in our world consists of different kinds of atoms: If two or more atoms join together, the combination is called a molecule. If two or more atoms of different elements join together, that’s a chemical compound. Editorial: Phosphate 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ thenewslinkgroup.com │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 Why Phosphate Matters You probably know that atoms are building blocks and that everything in our world consists of different kinds of atoms: If two or more atoms join together, the combination is called a molecule. If two or more atoms of different elements join together, that’s a chemical compound. Even though compounds are always molecules, it doesn’t go the other direction; a molecule with only one element isn’t a compound. Water is a chemical compound because two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom are all linked together into a single water molecule. A chemical compound is a combination of several atoms. Scientists divide chemical compounds into two types: organic and inorganic. Organic chemicals are the ones that can be found in things that are alive, and they almost always have carbon in them. They also often have carbon and hydrogen that have been bonded together. Inorganic compounds are things like salt, metal, materials made from just one atomic element, and any compound that doesn’t have that mixture of carbon and hydrogen that are bonded together. Phosphate is an inorganic chemical that is mined so it can be used by farmers and by people who make things (that is, by manufacturers). It is the naturally occurring form of the element phosphorus. Phosphate is also called an industrial mineral because it is used in different manufacturing industries. For example, phosphate is used to make the lithium ion–phosphate batteries that are in some electric cars. Phosphate is also an important ingredient of fertilizer and animal feed. If you are interested in taking good care of our planet, phosphorus is a vitally important chemical because of the role it plays in all biological systems: All plants need to have three main nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Some soils need smaller amounts of other important nutrients: calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. There are seven necessary trace minerals, called micronutrients. If soil does not have enough of the micronutrients, then someone farming that soil has to put them in. In other words, all plants need exactly the right nutrients if the roots and flowers are to grow correctly. Soil that doesn’t have the right nutrients won’t grow crops. The fertilizers we apply to soil can come from manure or from mines. The main thing to remember, though, is that you have to have phosphorus if you want to be a successful farmer. And you can’t just put it in the soil once and be done. Plants use up phosphorus pretty fast, so you have to add more phosphorus on a regular schedule if you want the soil to continue growing good plants. Having phosphate mines, which allows us to get the phosphorus we need, is really important for anyone who makes a living by growing plants, but the phosphate we get from the mines is also useful in many other ways. For example, oven-baked foods use it. Phosphates are also in electronics, many of the products in your bathroom, and fabrics. In addition, some of the other uses are as follows: Water-based paint has polyphosphates in it. People who make ceramics use phosphates. Acid-based chemical polishes for aluminum and aluminum alloys use phosphorus. You can clean water so that you can drink it safely by treating it with phosphates and phosphoric acid. Vinyl siding can get mildew and stubborn stains on it. Phosphate cleaning solutions cleans off both things. The phosphate mining industry helps our economy a lot. It adds more than $2 billion worth of value to different products - each year. If you wanted to buy processed phosphate in 2012, it would cost $611 per ton. In 2011, you

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