Phosphates are the naturally occurring form of the element phosphorus, found in many phosphate minerals. In mineralogy and geology, phosphate refers to a rock or ore containing phosphate ions. Inorganic phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorus for use in agriculture and industry.The largest phosphorite or rock phosphate deposits in North America lie in the Bone Valley region of central Florida, the Soda Springs region of Idaho, and the coast of North Carolina. Smaller deposits are located in Montana, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina near Charleston along Ashley Phosphate road. The small island nation of Nauru and its neighbor Banaba Island, which used to have massive phosphate deposits of the best quality, have been mined excessively. Rock phosphate can also be found in Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Navassa Island, Tunisia, Togo, and Jordan, countries that have large phosphate-mining industries.In 2007, at the current rate of consumption, the supply of phosphorus was estimated to run out in 345 years. However, some scientists believed that a "peak phosphorus" will occur in 30 years and Dana Cordell from Institute for Sustainable Futures said that at "current rates, reserves will be depleted in the next 50 to 100 years." Reserves refer to the amount assumed recoverable at current market prices, and, in 2012, the USGS estimated 71 billion tons of world reserves, while 0.19 billion tons were mined globally in 2011. Phosphorus comprises 0.1% by mass of the average rock (while, for perspective, its typical concentration in vegetation is 0.03% to 0.2%), and consequently there are quadrillions of tons of phosphorus in Earth's 3 * 1019 ton crust, albeit at predominantly lower concentration than the deposits counted as reserves from being inventoried and cheaper to extract; if it is assumed that the phosphate minerals in phosphate rock are hydroxyapatite and fluoroapatite, phosphate minerals contain roughly 18.5 % phosphorus by weight and if phosphate rock contains around 20 % of these minerals, the average phosphate rock has roughly 3.7 % phosphorus by weight.

Some phosphate rock deposits are notable for their inclusion of significant quantities of radioactive uranium isotopes. This syndrome is noteworthy because radioactivity can be released into surface waters in the process of application of the resultant phosphate fertilizer (e.g. in many tobacco farming operations in the southeast US).

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