Phosphorus is an essential element which is contained in many cellular compounds, such as DNA and the energy carrier ATP. All life needs phosphorus and agricultural yields are improved when phosphorus is added to growing plants and the diet of livestock. Consequently, it is used globally as a fertiliser – and plays an important role in meeting the world’s food requirements.
In order for us to add it, however, we first need to extract it from a concentrated form – and the supply comes almost exclusively from phosphate mines in Morocco (with far smaller quantities coming from China, the US, Jordan, and South Africa). Within Morocco, most of the mines are in Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony which was annexed by Morocco in 1975.
The fact that more than 70% of the global supply comes from this single location is problematic, especially as scientists are warning that we are approaching “peak phosphorus”, the point at which demand begins to outstrip supply and intensive agriculture cannot continue to provide current yields. In the worst case scenario, mineable reserves could be exhausted within as little as 35 years.
Click here to read more.