Mineral company Norge Mining recently discovered 77 billion tons of phosphate in southwestern Norway. This deposit is enough to supply all EV batteries and solar panels on the planet for the next 50–100 years.
Phosphate is a crucial component in renewable energy technologies, and phosphate shortages have been a major concern for industry watchers.
Significance of the Norway Discovery
Average phosphate prices in June 2023 were 344.50 USD per metric ton, almost three times greater than the 2021 average price.
The Russo-Ukrainian War is one of the main causes of this price surge. Russia is currently the world’s fourth-largest phosphate producer. Its phosphate exports have dropped dramatically since the start of the war in February 2022.
Scientists have feared that the world is heading to a catastrophic event called “phosphogeddon,” in which phosphate shortages destroy many sectors of the economy. In 2019, The Guardian published a report predicting that the US, China, and India will deplete their phosphate reserves within one generation. The report also anticipated that future phosphate mining would be concentrated in politically unstable countries.
These concerns make Norge Mining’s discovery all the more exciting. US think tank Fund for Peace ranks Norway as the most politically stable country in the world. Norway is also the most environmentally sustainable nation on the planet, according to a report from investment company RobecoSAM.
Phosphate’s Uses in Renewable Energy
Phosphate is one of the key ingredients in lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) EV batteries. According to multiple studies, LFP batteries are safer than conventional lithium-ion batteries. LFP batteries also have longer life spans.
Phosphate is also a key ingredient in solar panels. Solar panels use a combination of phosphate and boron to create electric fields. Phosphate introduces extra electrons and causes one section of a solar panel to have a negative charge. Meanwhile, boron reduces the number of electrons and causes another section of the solar panel to have a positive charge. When sunlight interacts with the panel, electrons travel from the negative region to the positive region, creating electricity.
In addition, Norge Mining’s phosphate discovery is excellent news for the agricultural sector. Phosphate is one of the most important fertilizers used to grow food.
Norge Mining aims to use carbon capture and storage to mitigate the environmental impact of production. The company aims to open its first phosphate mine at the deposit site by 2028.
Image created by James St. John. License available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/. Image cropped.