Phosphate is a natural mineral found in rock deposits throughout the United States. In the early 19th century, people learned that phosphorus, the element found in phosphate rock, was good fertilizer. By boosting nutrients in soil, phosphate helps to promote rapid plant growth. While it used to be picked up by hand from shallow rivers, today phosphate is strip-mined, processed, and used to produce fertilizer. It's also an ingredient in many other everyday products such as soft drinks, food preservatives, household cleaning products, toothpaste and animal feed.
Phosphate is found all over the country, with the highest amounts in Florida and Idaho.
The industry says that Florida provides 75 percent of the nation's entire phosphate supply and 25 percent of the world's supply. We know that substantial quantities of phosphate strip mined in Florida are processed and sent to China. The mineral is processed here, leaving behind toxic waste and the valuable phosphate is sent overseas—even though China has its own reserves.
In Florida, most of the deposits are found in "Bone Valley," in the heart of Central Florida. Deposits are also found in the middle portion of the state.
More than 460,000 acres of Florida have been strip-mined by the phosphate companies. Though Central Florida has been the heart of mining operations, the ore is mined out, so the industry is migrating south, to the Peace River basin.