The Importance of Adding Phosphate and Potash to the Critical Minerals List

The United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) 2022 list of critical minerals, essential to the nation’s economic and national security, notably does not include phosphorus and potash, vital elements for agriculture and our food supply.

Efforts to include phosphorus and potash in the critical minerals list have gained momentum with legislation being introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Supporters of the legislation make the compelling case that these minerals are essential for agriculture and, by extension, national security, and economic stability. The reevaluation of the critical status of these minerals is crucial, especially given the current challenges in the global fertilizer market.

The need for phosphate and potash to be included on the critical minerals list becomes evident when we consider that both are non-renewable resources and geographically limited. Being geographically limited means that the supply chains for phosphorus and potash are concentrated in a few countries, leading to potential geopolitical risks. For instance, most of the world’s phosphorus reserves are located in Morocco and Western Sahara, while Canada, Russia, and Belarus are major potash suppliers. This concentration raises concerns about U.S. national supply security, especially during times of political instability or trade disruptions. Recent global events have highlighted the vulnerability of fertilizer supply chains. Including phosphorus and potash in the critical minerals list would emphasize the need to develop more resilient supply chains and domestic sources, reducing import dependency and mitigating the impact of global shortages.

The U.S. has both phosphate and potash production, but expanding mines and opening new ones is a costly and time-consuming process measured in years and in the tens of millions of dollars for permitting alone. Being listed as critical minerals would not exclude these projects from environmental reviews, but would assign a single permitting agency to be responsible and streamline the process.

Adding phosphate and potash to the Critical Minerals list would be a significant step towards securing our own future and sending the clear message that safeguarding our nation’s food supply is not only an economic imperative, but a strategic priority that ensures our well-being.